British Eventing (BE) has taken steps to reduce a growing problem of oversubscription that has left riders frustrated in their bid to start competing.

Last week BE added extra days at Hambleden and Milton Keynes, and 14 sections have been added to events.

Popular events have turned away horses or “balloted” them from competition. Oasby Horse Trials (6-9 March) balloted 154 despite adding an extra day — last year only one competitor was turned away.

“The problem is not necessarily worse this year,” insisted BE spokesman Liza Randall, “but has been highlighted by the cancellation of five events in March.”

But just one month into the season 900 competitors have already been balloted — more than half the 1,700 balloted throughout the whole of 2007.

BE issues one “ballot sticker” per horse for each month of the season, giving priority entry. It also issues two “super specials” per year to each horse giving even greater priority.

Balloting is most severe at lower levels, but Belton Horse Trials (11-13 April) has had to ballot the advanced and CIC*** sections — an almost unprecedented situation.

Incidences of balloting could also be down to a BE membership boom of more than 700 in the past year and rule changes allowing BE’s youngest members to enter more classes than before.

Entries secretary Holly Farr, who looks after Belmont Park, Somerley Park and Highclere among others, also believes pre-season events such as Jumping and Style (JAS)
mean competitors are ready earlier.

Riders have suggested that popular events should run extra days next year.

But BE director of sport Mike Etherington-Smith said: “To add new days will potentially disrupt the balance.

“We depend so much on the generosity of the organisers and land owners who are less keen to run spring events.”

BE is pooling a list of horses and riders who have been balloted, so no rider suffers more than any other.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (10 April, ’08)