Mark Phillips: We need a new 1.05m eventing level *H&H VIP*

  • For as long as I’ve been involved in eventing, all the major initiatives have come out of Britain. But now the US are introducing a level with 3ft 5in (1.05m) cross-country fences. This would sit between our current BE100 (1m) and novice (1.10m)

    As far back as 2008 the FEI toyed with making one-star at 1.05m (currently 1.10m), two-star at 1.10m (currently 1.15m) and so on up to a new five-star level (at the dimensions of the existing four-star). Sadly they stepped back from the brink.

    Since then, from time to time I’ve advocated the 1.05m level, but British Eventing (BE) have pushed back because of the cost to organisers and said it is not necessary because at BE100plus and intermediate novice (IN) riders can practise the extra 5cm in the showjumping.

    That shows a serious lack of understanding of how the sport works for organisers and from a grassroots’ perspective.

    Firstly, I’ve yet to meet an organiser who doesn’t want to put on a class where they can make money! Existing BE100 fences could have 2in of chock or brush added and you are 90% of the way there. A couple of new portables with the extra top spread, and a few distance or bending-line changes would complete the job.

    Secondly, an extra 2in in the showjumping does not address the real issue.

    People find it much harder to kill or hurt themselves over coloured poles than they do cross-country. Eventing is the only sport where we expect horses and riders to make a 4in step up (3ft 3in to 3ft 7in or 1m to 1.10m) instead of the normal 2in or 10cm. Small wonder we get so many serious injuries at novice and one-star level.

    All BE have to do is put the new level in the rulebook and sit back and see how many organisers grab the chance. Some entrepreneurs like Michael Munden at Bricky — which has dedicated tracks for the BE100plus and IN levels — have tried to do their bit but are inhibited by existing rules.

    I believe the introduction of the 1.05m level would be a huge move forward on the risk management front. As well as providing a stepping stone for amateurs, it could be useful for pros starting young horses.

    Well done the US for leading the way — let’s hope we are not too proud to follow.

    Right for Gatcombe

    Some of the diehards looked down their noses at me with the introduction of the Corinthian Cup at Gatcombe, a novice championship in which participation was limited by rider experience, and asked if that was really what the Festival was about.

    The dressage was not spectacular and we probably made a wrong choice in using the CIC* test, but the Corinthian riders coped well with the showjumping and cross-country and gave good entertainment for the crowd.

    Bits and bobs

    My daughter Stephanie took me to Homme House after Gatcombe — a good event with a friendly atmosphere, but the ground left a bit to be desired despite use of the aerator.

    They used the short-arena intermediate test for the IN and I felt quite sorry for the riders as it is tricky to do in that small arena.

    I was also at Somerford Park, where some riders had a shock as their vaccinations were valid for the national classes, which demand annual boosters, but not the FEI ones where horses need them every six months. It was a little ironic then to see everyone warming up together. Rules are rules — it’s just a shame when national and FEI ones are not in sync.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 27 August 2015