Opinion

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I enjoyed Belton, where I was responsible for the advanced and CIC3* courses. Being earlier in the season than last year, the course was more straightforward. There were opportunities for riders to take a forward distance instead of holding for the extra stride. It was great to hear British coach Chris Bartle encouraging his newly-acquired disciples to take those attacking choices.

Chris knows that at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon next year, riders will have to take those energy-saving options, as under the new FEI championship rules the time will be nigh on unachievable with the golf course undulations and the four bridge crossings.

Belton kicked off the Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam and it would take a brave person to bet against Izzy Taylor winning two more legs to claim the £50,000.

Mark Todd rode impeccably as ever to be second, which was remarkable, given that he was involved in a nasty road accident on the way to Belton.

I also felt sorry for Camilla Speirs when BT Border Bandit shattered a cannon bone two strides from an oxer. Luckily they got to the other side of the fence unscathed, but the horse could not be saved. This is a rider’s worst nightmare — in the case of a heart attack or broken bone so close to an obstacle, there is nothing the jockey can do to help the situation.

Bad rules

Recently, without consulting federations, the FEI introduced a new rulebook annex. It states that any indoor or arena eventing competition held within an international dressage or showjumping show has to be FEI-approved or riders and officials at the “unsanctioned competition” face suspension by the FEI.

This is a poorly considered addition — eventing needs the freedom to run national classes just as national dressage and showjumping is permitted at these shows. The FEI has also mandated two-star level for these classes, which may not be feasible in a small arena.

The British Equestrian Federation need to team up with the US federation and lobby for a better system.

Tighten up times

I dislike bureaucracy, but officials have to do their bit. I remember in the 1980s Hugh Thomas as British Eventing (BE) steward telling me that if I was late at the cross country start I could be eliminated.

The situation is now out of control — at Gatcombe the prize-giving was delayed by an hour because of riders being late for cross-country.

To improve this, I’d like to see jockeys with multiple rides given a minimum of 45 minutes between them rather than the current 30 minutes, but with less tolerance for lateness.

This might mean they can’t ride as many horses, which won’t please organisers who need full days to balance the books, but I also believe it is wrong for riders to be allowed multiple horses when others are being balloted. BE needs to take a hard look at the system to ensure it works for all.

However, I’m pleased BE and the FEI are adopting the EquiRatings Quality Index (ERQI) system. Neither frangibles nor ERQIs can make the sport safe, but this is a major step to helping riders make sensible decisions.

Ref Horse & Hound; 7 April 2017