Thibault Fournier’s victory at Pau — his first CCI4* — was a lovely result. He came off on the cross-country at Aachen, which spoiled any chance he had of making the French team for the World Equestrian Games, so this will have been great compensation on home turf.
Some of the more fancied runners at Pau fell by the wayside, but the British girls once again proved their strength — and sixth was a much-deserved result for Tom Crisp, too.
Pau runs over a completely flat track, which definitely suits horses with less “blood”. It’s horses for courses, and a recent piece by EquiRatings reinforces my thoughts on a related issue.
Before we took away the roads and tracks and steeplechase phases of three-day eventing, the thoroughbred — or nearly full-thoroughbred — horse was king.
Since we changed to the shorter format and the endurance factor was considerably reduced, and the dressage and the showjumping became more important, people have been buying different types of horses; those with flashy movement and a big jump.
Certainly a flashy mover is easier to sell than a bold cross-country horse without so much sparkle in its paces, but those horses frequently don’t have the speed and the stamina required for cross-country.
Three-day eventing is still a test of speed and stamina, and horses with blood that can gallop still find it easier and recover more quickly. They may not be the smartest movers or the most impressive jumpers, but they are made and bred for the all-round test of eventing.
There are people calling for cross-country courses to be shortened at the higher levels, but I don’t think the sport should change to suit the type of horse some people choose to ride — those people should be looking for the horses that can do the job required. The key to eventing is cross-country, and it would be a great shame if we lost that.
A shortened track of seven or eight minutes, as opposed to 11 or 12 minutes, would mean we lose the essence of what three-day eventing is and the skill in producing a horse to gallop to the end of those longer, more demanding tracks. And when riders ask horses who don’t have that stamina and that gallop to go fast round an 11-minute cross-country course, they are pushing them out of their comfort zones and the risk of fatigue and injury is much higher.
The ones for our sport
Look at La Biosthetique-Sam FBW — he is over 75% thoroughbred, a very normal mover who was usually in or near the lead after dressage, was nearly always inside the time and stayed remarkably sound.
My own double Olympic gold medallist, Charisma, was 15/16ths thoroughbred, did long-format three-day events until he was 16, always made the time and never took a lame step. He had the blood and the breeding to do the job.
People have the idea in their heads that dressage is about flashy movement. It’s not — it is correct training that produces the results. Ingrid Klimke’s SAP Hale Bob OLD is the perfect example of that.
There are plenty of horses being bred with thoroughbred blood in them. They are the ones for our sport and we should keep it that way.
Ref Horse & Hound; 1 November 2018