Harry Meade: A winter of crucial decisions *H&H VIP*

  • We must hope that the FEI eventing committee will be allowed to be heard on the issue of Olympic format, which is due to come up at the general assembly next month. The theory is that three in a team would mean more flags — the allotted field of 65 would divide into nearly 22 teams — but the problem is that there aren’t 22 nations currently able to field a remotely competitive Olympic team.

    Those proposing the change are misguidedly doing so in the name of making eventing more likely to remain in the Olympics; sending dramatically substandard riders to a watered down test will make the sport look like a joke and be a fast track to Olympic exclusion.

    If the issue is that of awarding medals to non-finishers, then a compromise would be only to give medals to those providing the three counting scores in each team. The proposed change is meant to bring eventing in line with dressage and jumping, but the sports simply cannot be compared – in dressage the likelihood of all the riders completing the competition is close to 100%, so the discard score is not required.

    In order to give more teams access to the Olympics, it is likely that the next step will be to reduce the four-star status of the World Equestrian Games — the one championship everyone hoped to preserve at elite level. We don’t want this to be a dumbed down qualifying ground for the Olympic Games; we want it to remain a true World Championship.
    The proposal of three or four in a team went to the eventing committee in the spring, but mid debate they were told there was no point discussing it as it was a fait accompli. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.

    Are clean jumpers safer?

    One potential rule change which I’m pleased to hear has been dropped is that of reducing the MER (minimum eligibility requirement) from 16 showjumping faults to 12. The proposed rule change was made in an effort to make cross-country safer by preventing poor jumpers from progressing through the levels as easily.

    It is an interesting issue and one could be forgiven for thinking a cleaner jumper is a safer horse across country. However, the most brilliant and safe cross-country horses are often not particularly careful showjumpers; while those that jump 90% of their showjumping rounds clear at two- and three-star level are, more often than not, never likely to make great four-star horses.And, of course, if the rule did come in, Chris Burton’s Burghley win would not be an MER!

    Bartle for Britain?

    There has been much to celebrate in 2016. The rise of livestreaming has been great for the sport’s accessibility, as exemplified by the Event Rider Masters (ERM) series. The ERM model is a great addition to eventing and seems to work best where a CIC3* is the main event — Chatsworth, Barbury and Gatcombe were arguably most successful — rather than when run alongside a CCI3*.

    The CCIs at Bramham and Blenheim may be better to stand as the big class in their own right; Blair may prefer to lose their CCI3*, which only had 11 starters this year, and concentrate on the ERM. If the series can go global to incorporate some of the overseas CICs, as is the plan, this would achieve an improved spread and continue to grow the series.

    And, finally, news has broken that Chris Bartle has applied for the job of British eventing performance manager. As a new era beckons, it will be both fascinating and exciting to find out who will be at the helm for 2017 and beyond.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 6 October 2016