British Eventing (BE) is extending its trial of allowing riders to use stopwatches at lower levels until the end of the 2016 season.
BE said feedback so far had been “mainly positive” and that its sport committee felt the extension would allow more feedback and data to be gathered.
A final decision will be implemented for the 2017 season.
“The stopwatch trial was first brought in following feedback from stewards and officials,” said BE sport manager Debbie Marfell.
“BE found that riders of all ages at lower levels were struggling to find the correct pace and to adapt their rhythm and speed for different levels of tracks.
“The trial has highlighted that a number of competitors are unaware of the rules surrounding pace [5.9] which can see them penalised for deliberately slowing down near the end of the cross-country course to avoid time penalties, so it is about learning to use the stopwatches as part of your cross-country equipment and to help riders establish the correct pace.”
Rule 5.9 of the 2016 British Eventing Members’ Handbook states that competitors are “free to choose the pace at which they ride”, but that they should take into account issues such as conditions, terrain, fitess and ability of themselves and their horses, and respect the class speed and optimum time.
The subject of riders competing at ower levels wearing stopwatches has raised much discussion.
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Nicola Holehouse, who competes at BE100 level, said: “I have used the stopwatch in the way it is intended by using an app to work out minute-markers and by adjusting my pace round the course to stick to those minute-markers.
“Previously I just used to ride as fast as I felt comfortable as I knew that would get me in the required time-zone. Now I can aim for closer to the optimum and not press [my horse] so much.
“At Rackham last week [18-19 June] that let me back off in the muddy woods, push on on the nice grass but stick bang on the minute-markers the whole way round and finish bang on the optimum time.”
A BE spokesman said: “For riders wanting to gain more experience and confidence using a stopwatch, BE runs cross-country training courses round the country using BE-accredited coaches for riders at all levels and of all ages.”