The proposed new FEI rules add a 1.05m one-star level to international competition, with current one-star (1.10m) becoming two-star. At these levels, there will be only a single format — CI — which will amalgamate the CCI (international three-day event) and CIC (international one-day event).

Both Mark Phillips and Mark Todd have recently written about people riding across country as a flat out race and without any sense of rhythm. The new proposals are only likely to make matters worse, as shorter courses — as we will see at the proposed CI format — encourage such riding.

Every time we discuss safety, we highlight riding in a rhythm, jumping fences at the correct speed and getting horses fit enough. The way to reduce riders’ speed is to keep courses long — cross-country should be a middle-distance race, not a sprint. The longer course of a CCI means there is an endurance element to the test and the best way to record a fast time is by riding smoothly in a rhythm and conserving the horse’s energy.

At the shorter CIC distance, that endurance aspect is lost and there is no need to conserve energy, making it a sprint. The current top-level CIC — three- star — is over a shorter course (six to seven minutes) than the current lowest-level CCI (seven to nine minutes).

It’s not difficult to get a horse fit for a CCI*, but riders must find somewhere suitable and do consistent fastwork, so they learn the first steps of real fitness work.

So if at CCI* riders improve their cross-country riding and learn to get their horse fit, why would we want to stop this?

The lower-level CCIs also provide a wonderful goal for amateurs. For those not wanting to move up the grades, doing a CCI* is their season highlight and an amalgamated CI won’t be the same.

Finally, we’re trying to make eventing simpler — we have CCI and CIC at each level, so surely creating an extra format, the amalgamated CI, is just adding confusion?

A positive move

There are sensible changes in the proposed rules, including the removal of the dressage co-efficient.

The co-efficient (which multiplies marks by 1.5, effectively spreading the scores further apart) worked in the days of long format, when the spread of marks in the jumping phases was much greater, but it’s now outdated.

As an example, at Luhmühlen this year the exceptionally tough showjumping was still less influential than the dressage — across the 24 best dressage performances (top half of the field) the range of marks was 13.6, while the 24 best showjumping rounds yielded a spread of 12 penalties. If this is the case even when the showjumping is at its most difficult, the phases’ relative influence is wrong. Removing the co-efficient will help remedy that.

Riders subconsciously think about the influence of the phases when selecting horses and training; if the dressage determines the results, people will spend most time on it. The only way to make cross-country a more practiced skill, which is vital for safety, is by increasing its relative influence on the competition.

Finally, this makes eventing simpler — spectators can work out dressage scores without needing to know the 1.5 times table!

On to Strzegom

Britain has announced a strong team for the European Championships. I’m commentating for the BBC and am looking forward to cheering them on.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 August 2017