Opinion

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The Event Rider Masters (ERM) aims to take eventing to a new audience and it ran its first global highlights programme after Chatsworth, complementing its free livestreaming. The FEI has for many years provided online viewing and has the same goals in promoting the sport, but can perhaps learn from the ERM.

The ERM’s live coverage is straightforward to find, doesn’t require a password or any details and is free to view. It was so easy to access that I watched on my phone while walking across Chatsworth’s lorry park on my way from competing in the class to getting on my next horse. In contrast, punters have to pay for FEI TV and put in their password each time, which only die-hard fans will do.

Obviously a subscription service generates revenue, but a free stream must draw significantly more viewers, which will attract advertisers. If the aim is to take the sport to more people in a financially viable way, surely this model is preferable as it will combine a wider audience, including those new to eventing, with income from advertising.

Balancing the flow

David Evans did a good job designing Chatsworth’s one-star cross-country track, which was clear to the horses, but testing enough. For example, near the end you jumped a table, then stayed straight before curving left to a corner and on round the bend to a narrow brush.

It looked like three fences on a curve, but if you turned too early to the corner, you couldn’t make the third element. It caused problems all day, but if riders had a plan to turn late and stuck to it, it was a very straightforward fence.

Ian Stark’s advanced and CIC3* courses were also positively received. Chatsworth is an undulating track and the second half is a real rollercoaster on an ever-changing gradient.

There were quite a few speed-bump type fences, where it was necessary to slow down and set up.

It’s tough to balance flow and making the time too easy at this level. While the terrain at Chatsworth means it’s never the smoothest site to ride around, Ian’s course produced a good result with a few inside the time, but not many.

It’s hard for one-days to have the same flow as CCIs due to shorter courses and increased jumping efforts per metre. I often think that ideally if the fences were removed, you should feel you could drive a car at speed around the track without trashing it.

A month of top three-day events

We are now into the run of spring three-days, with Saumur, Houghton, Tattersalls, Bramham and Luhmühlen over the next month.

It will be interesting to see what Mike Etherington-Smith does with the Luhmühlen course. Mark Phillips is the only person who has ever designed the four-star there and he did a great job. The fragile public perception of the sport in Germany brings pressures which have resulted in it having to be a cautious, step-up four-star.

I’m taking Away Cruising, a horse I found in Northern Ireland as a four-year-old. It takes time for horses to rise to this level — he’s 10 now — and I’m pleased for his owner Charlotte Opperman to have another four-star horse after Wild Lone.

Ref Horse & Hound; 25 May 2017