Pippa Roome: Can events afford a nine-horse class? *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Blair was at its best for its 30th anniversary this year, with excellent ground and balmy temperatures on Sunday. Everyone there felt rather smug not to be at Millstreet, which was less fortunate in its weather.

This was the first time in four years Blair had not hosted an Event Riders Masters (ERM) leg, which has attracted top names and boosted the other classes as riders bring extra horses. The date clash with Millstreet is catastrophic for entries, but director Alec Lochore reports that Blair cannot move for reasons such as trade stands, which are tied into a circuit beyond horse trials.

Blair’s CCI2*-L was still huge — it’s such a destination event at that level — and the CCI3*-L and CCI4*-S had decent fields. The CCI4*-L (previously CCI3*) has always struggled for entries, although 25 last year was the best line-up since 2012. With just nine this year, Alec admits it is “financial suicide” to run the class and the team will look at whether its worth continuing.

Emilie Chandler, who won the CCI4*-L this time, can take heart from the fact the title has been claimed by some excellent horses, including Wesko, Cool Mountain and Macchiato, who all went on to win at four-star (now five-star).

Ready to leap

Only just over half the starters jumped clear across country in Blair’s CCI2*-L.

Three accuracy questions accounted for most of the faults. But a lot of horses also looked uncertain at the first water, where the first entry had a log on top of the step in and the second was a jump into the pond.

I wonder how many national novice tracks require horses to jump anything other than a step down into water? Perhaps it’s a gap riders need to plug in training before a CCI2*-L, particularly now that horses can qualify for the level at novice and are not required to do an intermediate or novice two-day.

Blood conundrum

The dressage, jumping and para Europeans were eventful. I feel so sorry for Lottie Fry and Gareth Hughes, who deserved the first senior medal they lost after Charlotte Dujardin’s elimination.

I can’t decide where I stand on the rule that automatically eliminates dressage riders (and showjumpers) if any fresh blood is found on the horse’s flank. Of course no one wants to see horses marked or to hide such incidents, but in most cases the scratches are miniscule and horses not in any way distressed. The outcry over a supposed welfare atrocity does horse sport more harm than good in the eyes of the general public.

But to let officials decide the sanction based on the severity of the mark would put huge pressure on volunteers or minimally paid officials. It’s a difficult one to solve.

On another note, I disagree with limiting each nation to three riders in the dressage freestyle. I know we want the maximum possible countries at championships, but riders should line up for this final test on merit and no one with a suitable score should miss a chance to fight for individual medals, as happened to the fourth German, Sönke Rothenberger, this time.

Let’s hope Team GBR can add to the medal haul at the eventing European Championships this week.

Ref Horse & Hound; 29 August 2019