Mark Phillips: An unjust legacy and an insurance worry *H&H VIP*

Opinion

I was lucky enough to design the CCI2*-L track for the under-18s at Frickley Park last month. The ground was good, all bar those who tipped off seemed happy with the course and the prize money and sponsor base exceptional. Yet a general sadness pervaded as next year these championships move from this special venue to Bishop Burton College.

This is probably one of the most unjust legacies of the much-criticised British Eventing review of championship and international fixtures earlier this year that the sport now has to live with for the next five years.

Radical changes

Now that I’m reduced to the role of cross-country course-designer at the Festival of British Eventing, the week is almost a holiday. My son Peter has taken over as organiser, with the stresses that go with that unenviable role. Peter is putting together his own special team of helpers and volunteers who will help the event go from strength to strength.

Almost inevitably there were a few hiccups and disgruntled volunteers this time, but it’ll be smoother in future.

All the championships are special in their own way and the terrain at Gatcombe is unique. It was also good this year to be told by Mark Lucey that his ground testing equipment noted the footing as “racecourse good”!

I do believe, though, that the qualifications for the championships are outdated, so expect radical changes there.

The riders who did compete cross-country in the depleted Magic Millions British open said that the run on the hills at Gatcombe is key for getting horses fit enough for Burghley, something much more difficult to achieve on flatter courses. This thought process seems to have gone out of fashion — I’ll be watching closely at Burghley!

I’ve taken on at short notice the three- and four-star course-design job at Waregem in Belgium after the tragic death of Tom Ryckewaert in June. He and his son, Levi, have driven the event over the past 10 years. Hopefully with the help of the Willis Brothers we can continue their tradition and put on something special in September.

Out at the top

Mark Todd has received so many plaudits, all of which are richly deserved. Without question, he is one of the all-time greats and among the best horsemen we’ll ever see.

I’m glad he has retired at the top of his game and before he started to ride like an old man. We see far too many of our great riders go on too long and finish up riding in a way that belies their heyday. Mark has been a class act all his career and has finished in the same manner.

Volunteer insurance

I was surprised to learn this summer that British Eventing insurance for volunteers over 75 is limited to public liability and personal accident insurance for medical expenses of £25,000 for death, loss of eyes, limbs, or total disablement, while younger volunteers are covered for an additional £250 per week for temporary disablement and up to £20,000 for accident medical expenses.

This seems a little harsh to me and doesn’t send out the right message as many of those who have time to volunteer are over the age of 75!

Ref Horse & Hound; 15 August 2019