Matthew Wright’s eventing blog: my thoughts on events lacking entries

What a July it’s been! A heat wave, torrential downpours and flash flooding. I’m just waiting for the snow showers next — nothing would shock me any more.

On a more serious note, we’ve had a good few weeks with the horses. It started with a trip to Aston-le-Walls to run the older horses in the advanced, and The Corn Crake (Herbie) definitely won the gold star and Blue Peter badge that weekend. Herbie put in a personal best dressage performance and jumped a super double clear to finish 11th in a strong section. But if I’m honest I was pleased with all the horses’ performances, especially as it was their first runs since Tattersalls in June. They all jumped great so certainly blew away any cobwebs.

The following week it was time to get the old Jumping boots out and head to The All England Jumping Course at Hickstead ahead of the MS Amlin Eventers Challenge. It’s been a good few years since I took part in the Eventers Challenge and I’m very grateful to the owners of Rapide GII (Pele) for letting me take him so I could have another go (pictured top). We may as well have gone to the South of France as the South East was literally just as hot. “Hotter than Hades”, to be precise, as my owner very accurately pointed out!

Rapide GII jumps through the Devils Dyke at Hickstead

Also along for the ride was Caunton Manor Stud’s young six-year-old stallion Comfort for a steady educational jump around the Foxhunter. I don’t know if I’ve become more soft as I’ve grown older, but the fences looked bloody huge when they all of a sudden go into the second phase and become 1.30m. I think by this point they looked about 1.50m in my mind when I was walking the course. When it came to our turn, Com made them feel pretty easy and it was great practice to get my eye in.

Comfort at Hickstead

The day of the Eventers Challenge arrived, which also happened to be the hottest day of the year so far, so it was important to keep the horses as hydrated, shaded and cool as possible. We made sure we tipped buckets of cold water over the horses every hour when temperatures soared above 35℃ and gave them plenty to drink, plus electrolytes. In that heat you don’t need to warm the horses up for too long and remember to let them stand in the shade wherever possible. The problem is the weather is so variable in the UK, the horses never get chance to acclimatise to anything. When our turn came, I couldn’t have asked any more of Pele in the main arena — he tried his heart out and coped brilliantly in the conditions. It was great to have sponsors Shires Equestrian Products with us too. Louise and Jennifer came along to show their support and make sure we had everything we needed and managed to take some awesome footage of Pele jumping round. We waited until 6.30pm to leave Hickstead that night to avoid the risk of having to stand in stationary traffic on the M25 in the heat, which worked well as we had a pretty smooth run home.

It was a good job really as we had a quick turnaround to Frickley Park the following morning, which meant that it was time for the younger horses to come out to play. Up first was Caunton First Class (Amy), who was competing in her first BE100. I don’t think Amy could have done much more than the 26 dressage and double clear she produced to win the section easily — certainly not bad for five-years-old. Next it was the turn of Crazy Du Loir, who also put in a good dressage score of 29 and jumped a steady double clear to finish eighth after a few time faults.

The Shires Tempest Original Mesh Cooler in action

It then started to rain heavily over the weekend at Frickley, meaning that after the heat wave, the going became extremely slippery. I thought it best to leave the young novice horses at home on the Sunday as I didn’t want to frighten them at this stage in the season, with them running the risk of sliding into fences. They don’t stand much chance showjumping at their best either, and I know and appreciate everyone has different opinions, but I personally don’t find this educational for my young horses.

One subject that seems to keep popping up at present and that is certainly noticeable, is a lack of entries to some events and a decrease in entries to some of the bigger events.

I usually find that the way the entries fall is that the ballot dates tend to be either on the same day or within the same week of one another. This means that you usually end up having to pay within the space of a week for two or three events at a time, which isn’t cheap. Usually if you enter but don’t pay straight away, your entry will be rejected. I think when people then look online and see the event is not full, therefore entries won’t close, they hold back on entering until it is a more convenient time for them to pay. Skipton Horse Trials highlighted this with what they did on the Twitter Eventing Facebook page. I thought it was a great idea when entries were down and the general consensus was that people were waiting for payday, that Skipton told people to put their entries in even if they couldn’t pay that day. As long as they paid before the event, their times would be released.

I appreciate it is also expensive organising and running an event and can see the argument on both sides, but it was amazing how many more entries went in when this message was put out there. I agree when events are nearly full and entries are going to close, the paid entries should take precedent over the unpaid ones. But perhaps when a series of events all require entries putting in within the same week as the ballot dates are close, a deposit could be placed confirming the entry instead of the full entry fee needing to be paid straight away. Then the final balance could be paid before section lists go out or times. It is an expensive sport to do as a professional and also as an amateur.

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We now have a pretty busy August competing and I’m looking forward to establishing a good relationship with some of the new younger horses I have. We’re also making the most of quality family time at present while the kids are off school on summer holidays. I am loving having riding buddies who are enjoying hacking and cantering across the fields with me all the time. Groom training is going exceptionally well too with my daughters, apart from Niamh who likes applying hoof oil to the body at present. Must try harder.

Matt

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