This is my alternative idea for a future format for eventing at the Olympics, following the FEI proposals in response to the International Olympic Committee’s 2020 Agenda.

Recent experience has shown that at short-format four-star events a hold on course is usually an advantage, allowing the horse to recover substantially and letting the fresher horse perform effectively after the break.

This proposal takes this observation forward to offer a new format that brings the advantage of clearly distinguishing between the team and individual tests.

Participation

  • 65 horse and rider combinations, of which up to 30 are eligible for the individual test
  • Teams of three or four, best three to count
  • Fewer penalty points than at present (1,000) for an eliminated team member

Since the introduction of a two-round showjumping as a decider for individual medals, the majority of horses have jumped as well, if not better, in the second round — there is no welfare issue in asking horses to jump again.

  • Following the normal final trot-up, the team showjumping takes place in team reverse order
  • Team medal ceremony takes place without horses
  • Number of teams and their qualification requirements to remain as now
  • Up to three individual riders for each nation to be nominated in advance — they must hold four-star minimum eligibility requirements
  • Individual places reserved for riders from nations which have no team, but who are genuine medal contenders — perhaps using a points qualification process as at Badminton

Format: day one

All 65 riders perform the short Olympic dressage test — permitting all dressage tests to be performed in one day

Format: day two

The cross-country course is designed and built with a view to being ridden in two sections. The first section of the cross-country (about nine minutes) is ridden by all. The results of this section form the basis of the team result. This “team section” would be four-star level with some three-star level long routes, which would cost time but help all teams to finish.

The nominated individuals who have completed the first section without jumping penalties and with under 12 time-penalties are then qualified for the individual test. A vet examination will take place in a 12-15-minute box after the first section to ensure fitness to continue.

The second “individual section” (about five minutes) would include some of the previously jumped parts of the course, including mainly straightforward fences to get the horses back into a rhythm. It would also include four-star questions appropriate to that stage of the course, which could be constructed on the same track previously used in the “team section”. This would need careful planning to avoid collisions with those still riding the “team section”, but would save costs in prepping ground and fences

The combined time from the “team section” and the time and jumping penalties from the “individual section” give an individual result

Format: day three

Since the introduction of a two-round showjumping as a decider for individual medals, the majority of horses have jumped as well if not better in the second round — there is no welfare issue in asking horses to jump again.

  • Following the normal final trot-up, the team showjumping takes place in team reverse order
  • Team medal ceremony without horses
  • Later same day, the individual showjumping takes place in classic reverse order
  • Individual medal ceremony with horses

Conclusion

I believe this proposal provides the opportunity, in a safe way, for the status of the Olympics as the pinnacle of our sport to be restored, thus meeting the objectives of the 2020 Agenda.

This suggestion allows the classic format of eventing to be retained — I favour keeping the showjumping as the final test, because when cross-country comes last riders can take increased risks. Also, when perfect conditions make the cross-country time easy to achieve, the result could be nearly a foregone conclusion.

It also promotes the welfare of the horse through a stricter qualification system for the individual competition, as well as veterinary supervision and the retention of showjumping as the final phase.

The team event with three-star qualification and over a shorter track will maximise how many nations can compete — a key point in the 2020 Agenda — while ensuring the highest level of competition in the individual test.

There will be a clear separation of team and individual competitions. However, the compactness of the cross-country course where both sections use the same track and potentially some of the same fences, even if jumped in different directions, will be TV and spectator friendly. It also reduces the space demands and construction costs especially in the groundwork for water jumps, ditches, banks and so on.

H&H 18 June 2015