How do you find 55 horses that can all jump 1.20m after just a few minutes familiarisation with a rider?

That’s the conundrum facing modern pentathlon competition manager for the Olympics and last weekend’s test event Peter Hart, particularly after the jumping phase proved controversial at the last Olympics.

Seventy-two athletes from 20 nations did battle in Greenwich Park (for running, riding and shooting) and Crystal Palace (for fencing and swimming) at the Modern Pentathlon UIPM World Cup Final (9-10 July) as a test event for next year’s Olympics.

In a new initiative, British Showjumping (BS) and the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) are for the first time collaborating with Pentathlon GB.

Unlike Olympic equestrian competitions, pentathletes do not ride their own horses.

Mr Hart said: “It’s quite a challenge. They have just 15 minutes to get the measure of their horse then they jump a 1.20m course.”

Horses to be leased
Among other things, BS and the BEF have helped LOCOG (the organisers of the Olympic Games) and Pentathlon GB to identify showjumping yards and dealers that could source horses of the appropriate quality.

LOCOG is leasing the horses, which have been selected through a tendering process, and has vetted both the horses and providers.

Some of the potential horses for the Olympics were used this weekend and others will be used at the European Modern Pentathlon Championships in Medway Park, Kent (28 July -1 August).

Permanent assistance
Unlike the 2008 Olympic equestrian competitions, which took place in Hong Kong, pentathlon was held in Beijing on China-based horses, and riders and spectators were shocked by the standard of horses, facilities and the riding.

BEF chief executive Andrew Finding said they have been in discussions with Pentathlon GB for 18 months and hope to continue the relationship.

“We have made a permanent offer of assistance to them on any aspect of the equestrian part of their discipline,” he said.

There have also been discussions between the FEI and UIPM (the two international federations) but so far no agreement to work together, said an FEI spokesman.

But Iain Graham, chief executive of BS, said: “It would be a very good idea. It seems strange that the FEI is not involved in the only other Olympic sport that uses horses.”

Tickets for the test event were allocated to pentathlon personnel and local residents.

For more on this news story, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (7 July, 2011)