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Drama at junior eventing Europeans

A number of unpenalised falls at the junior European Eventing Championships in Belgium has given rise to official complaints

The junior European Eventing Championships, held in Waregem, Belgium, were dogged by controversy and confusion due to ambiguities in the judging, numbering and flagging of the cross-country course that may have robbed Britain of a medal.

Several rider falls on the course went unpenalised because they were deemed not to be associated with either the preceding or following fences – in other words, falls on the flat.

Two of these unpenalised fallers were French team riders, which, as a result, ensured that France won the individual and team bronze medals.

At least five of the falls occurred at the water complex in precisely the same place, at the unflagged entrance to the water at the bottom of a slope less than 10 metres after the preceding fence.

As Robin Balfour, chairman of selectors for the junior British team, said: “There was no fault with the construction of the fences or indeed with the surface below the water.

“We are arguing that those riders who sat back and maintained their balance had no problem, while those who were too far forward as they came over fence 20 were sufficiently out of balance that when they slowed up to enter the water, they fell off. This was clearly connected with the fence and should have been penalised accordingly.”

A member of the Irish squad also went unfaulted for a fall two-and-a-half strides after the corner fence, to the great surprise of the rider and the whole Irish contingent. Indeed, when the falls in the water occurred, supporters of the nations involved were all clearly of the opinion that the falls were going to be penalised.

The British and Irish teams lodged official complaints at the event and the Belgian chef d’equipe also queried the marking, but the ground jury rejected the appeals.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (19 September), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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