Diary of a World-Class Water Jump

Wherever there is a water jump, spectators gather. Not only are water jumps technically challenging for horse and rider, they create spectacular scenery, offer great photo opportunities, and there is always a chance the human competitor may go for an unscheduled swim.

In this post we are going to “dig deep” into the science of water jumps because a world-class jump is much more than a hole in the ground and a new water feature is planned at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park. I’ll be updating this post as things progress with the most recent news always found here at the top:

Sunday, October 18 “Fawns in the Pond”

Deer are naturally curious creatures and pay close attention to their surroundings.  Anything new or out of place gets a full investigation and the new water feature at Elinor Klapp-Phipps Park is no exception.  Based on the size and number of tracks it looks like a convention of fawns held a meeting in the bottom of the new pond recently.

Tuesday, September 22

Course designers Mike Etherington-Smith and David O’Connor are back in the park to review progress on the new water complex and other work that is underway.  Mike has discussed his vision for what is initially referred to as “Osprey Pond” with Tyson Rementer, course builder and Corinne Mathis, jump decorator.  In the photo below, David compares initial design drawings to the finished product as he contemplates the entry and exit points he will use when designing the CIC 1* and CIC 2* courses.

Tuesday, September 15

Another detail is finished prior to the arrival of Zoysia sod today.  The quarter-mile long PVC pipe has been installed and runs from the on-site well to the new water complex.  This serves a dual purpose and will be used to fill the new feature prior to the 2016 event but, in the meantime, it will also allow the sod to be watered regularly as it begins to take root. The delivery from Boyd Sod Farm arrives and Ron Butler, the “Sod Father” will be here soon to install the rolls.


Friday, September 11

Four inches of lime rock have been laid atop the geo-tech fabric and two inches of granite on top of that combine to form a stable base for the new water complex.  The PVC liner and protective fabric are neatly tucked into the bank  which has been smoothed and prepped to receive Zoysia sod next week.  The drain is visible and awaits its final trim and finishing now that the lime rock and granite are down.  The mountain of top soil and clay has been moved across the park and will be used as part of the arena improvement that is also underway.  The silt fence that protected it has also been relocated.

Monday, August 31

After some delivery delays the custom made PVC liner measuring 120′ x 80′ is installed and the rolls of geo-tech fabric to protect the liner are also in place.  Next, a drain is installed for better regulation of the water level.  Because of rigid eventing rules about the allowable depth of any water complex, the organizers and officials must have a quick way to lower the water level.  When filled, the ideal depth is 10-12 inches of H2O but a Tallahassee thunderstorm could easily exceed the maximum allowable depth of 14 inches in a very short period of time.  On the far side of the park, another crew is preparing to lay a 1/4 mile long pipe that will carry water from the on-site well to the new water feature.  Additional work on the water complex will have to wait for the delivery of lime rock and granite.


Friday, August 28

It was a little bit of a set back when the PVC liner did not arrive on schedule.  The custom made liner is now expected to arrive by 1:00 this afternoon and Tyson is fine tuning the clay base.  Once installed, the liner will be covered with five rolls of a water-permeable geo-tech fabric (shown below) to protect it from the sharp hooves that would render the liner absolutely useless.  Tyson has to get back to North Carolina and his growing family but the City of Tallahassee’s Division of Parks and Recreation will carry on the work until he returns next month.


Thursday, August 27

With the big dig now complete, the work crew turns its attention to other details.  The first item on the list this morning is digging a trench in which a drain pipe will be installed.    Also on the task list today is setting up a silt fence around the mountain of topsoil and clay that resulted from yesterday’s activity.  The silt fence will keep the soil from washing back into the water complex until it can be moved.  Everything else must wait on the delivery of a PVC liner which is short for “poly vinyl chloride geomembrane” and it’s expected to arrive sometime today.

Wednesday, August 26

This is ground breaking news!  Two excavators and a front-end loader are assisted by laser technology today.  The assignment for the work crew is to remove eighteen inches of topsoil and the underlying red clay for which the Red Hills are named.  When the proper depth is reached for the entire water feature, another eight feet of gently sloping edge will be sculpted toward the natural elevation.  When the dig is completed, 6 inches of limestone and gravel will be re-purposed from the now retired Dew Pond to serve as the base.


Tuesday, August 25  

Tyson Rementer, Course Builder, arrived this morning and was met by equipment and manpower provided by the City of Tallahassee’s Division of Parks and Recreation. Turns out that the site markers are still where Michael and David placed them, they are simply dwarfed by Johnson Grass and other tall grasses that have benefited by recent rains and lots of sunshine. Job one is to locate the short markers and replace them with taller ones so the area can be mowed. The big dig will begin early in morning. (By the way, Tyson is also part of the international group that is building a cross country course for the 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro.)


Sunday, August 23

Knowing that the real work will begin this coming week, I venture out to Elinor Klapp Phipps Park with my dog Sam. Those brightly colored landscape flags that were used to mark the site of the new water jump are not visible. This is not good.

Tuesday, June 30

Organizers of the Horse Trials reviewed the proposed water jump location with City and District officials today. Permission to build the new jump is granted!

Saturday, June 27

The course design team arrived in Tallahassee late last night after flight delays and re-routing but today they began their work. Michael Etherington-Smith and David O’Connor began setting out markers this morning where a new water jump could be constructed provided all the necessary approvals are granted by the City of Tallahassee and the Northwest Florida Water Management District. Landscape flags were used to identify what is a slight but natural depression in a grassy area west of the main arena. After a break for lunch, Mike and David meticulously arrange and re-arrange the flags until they are satisfied with the natural slope, the size of the planned feature, and its overall presentation for spectators, riders, and horses alike.