Harry Meade: It’s about time riders got involved [H&H VIP]

  • Events like Chatsworth are a reminder of just how lucky we are in this sport.

    The beautiful park is a wonderful shop window for eventing. The settings of our biggest events — such as Badminton, Burghley, Bramham, Blenheim, Blair, Gatcombe and Houghton — are a selling point other sports can’t offer.

    Chatsworth perfectly showcases the sport to the uninitiated and it’s easy to see why it’s a highlight for many owners. We mustn’t take for granted the magnificent settings of stately homes that generously host events — they add a certain spirit that is impossible to create at other venues.

    While we rely heavily on events like Aston-le-Walls and Tweseldown to provide the educational classroom for our horses, we shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of the park events. For our vitally important owners, these are wonderful places to spend weekends and they attract new audiences too.

    Maintaining standards

    At Chatsworth some felt the three-star track was too tough compared to other CIC3*s. However, there is a range in difficulty of cross-country courses within each level — we expect Badminton to be tougher than Luhmühlen, and Bramham to be more of an endurance test than Saumur.

    Chatsworth is always demanding; you need a brave, scopey horse that can cope with undulations. The course won’t suit all and it is inadvisable to enter simply because a horse is qualified. Part of the skill of producing horses lies in planning their runs, picking courses that suit them and knowing when a horse is ready for a particular event or step up.

    As it turned out, the course rode well and feedback was positive. It is important to maintain the standard of cross-country questions. Each event produces horses and riders for the next level, so softer courses do few favours for the sport and the knock on effect is inevitable.

    Study the number of completions of the most successful partnerships and it is often well in excess of the minimum qualification requirements at each level. Long-term success is built on a foundation of confidence, which risks being flimsy if your horse is minimally prepared.

    It was great to see Pippa Funnell winning the main class at Chatsworth — she is an artist at giving horses the right foundation.

    Riders: get involved!

    The format for Olympic eventing is up for discussion and the recent dialogue between the International Olympic Committee, FEI and the international Eventing Riders Association (ERA Int) has highlighted the need for riders to be proactive in directing eventing’s future in the Olympic Games.

    Everyone agrees that Olympic inclusion is paramount, but the biggest stumbling block is rider apathy in reading reports or providing feedback to proposed changes. Unlike the dressage riders or showjumpers, who have a strong voice, event riders have historically failed to play an active role in steering the sport. Bruce Haskell and co at ERA Int have done a great job by engaging with the FEI, but they need riders to join ERA Int and enter the debate — membership is free!

    Armchair critic

    Having ridden at Badminton nine times in the past decade it was strange not to be competing this time, particularly after the buzz of last year. My first impression was that it was on the soft side, but maybe that’s what every rider thinks when not competing!

    It was great to see an exciting competition unfold and although I thoroughly enjoyed a stint alongside Messrs Tucker and Stark with the BBC, I’d prefer not to make a permanent swap from the start box to the commentary box just yet.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 28 May 2015