Mark Phillips: ‘this is a ray of sunshine after our winter of discontent with the FEI’ *H&H VIP*

  • To see so many events having to cancel is sad, but we were lucky last weekend that Stuart Buntine and his team were determined to battle the elements at Belton, where I am the cross-country course-designer. Belton and Eland Lodge were the only events to survive this weekend from six scheduled, albeit both had to cancel some classes.

    It’s extraordinary how Stuart has grown Belton. I was impressed with the live scoring system.

    I am completely at sea with the internet, but even I appreciated all the info available on my phone. Not only did we get broken down dressage marks as they happened, but at the end of the test we could review all the marks from each judge for every movement.

    Event Riders Masters (ERM) are about to introduce exciting innovations for TV, streaming and live timing. They should adopt this live scoring too.

    With these positives, it’s sad that the FEI seems intent on blindly trying to make the three Olympic disciplines fit one format, rather than examining all the possibilities for making the sport more understandable and entertaining.

    I had to smile when I read this quote from FEI president Ingmar de Vos: “Athletes probably still have a lack of information about what is driving all this” (news, 14 April). Whose fault is that? It led me to think how much better off we were with presidents of the FEI who also sat on the International Olympic Committee, rather than the first ever-salaried president we have now.

    I just hope that when a team wins a medal counting an eliminated competitor, that that is not the final nail in the coffin of our sport at the Olympics. I also don’t see how we’re going to qualify more teams and maintain our risk management without lowering standards or increasing the possibility of having a fatality at an Olympics.

    Looking forward

    For now we can look forward to Kentucky and Badminton looming. Kentucky, the US four-star, has a massive entry, which is great, although I do wonder about the quality at the bottom end. It’s a job to see beyond Michael Jung — who may well claim the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam — Tim Price, Mark Todd and the other New Zealanders as the winner.

    Badminton has a super quality field in depth. With Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke and Andreas Dibowski all running, can anyone stop Chris Bartle’s squad? If anyone can do it from outside the home team, it might be New Zealand again.

    A special mention for Andrew Nicholson ahead of Badminton — he’s been so close in the past on Nereo. How good if he could win it after his accident at Gatcombe last year.

    In the same vein, all will be wishing William Fox-Pitt a great return to the top level after his fall last October. Many will also hope for a good result for my daughter Zara Tindall (née Phillips) after High Kingdom’s injury at Kentucky 2015.

    The British Rio selection looks really open. Pippa Funnell, Tina Cook, Oliver Townend and Nicola Wilson will be trying hard, but there is an opportunity for the younger generation, led by Kitty King and Izzy Taylor, to book a place.

    After Badminton, it’ll be the first ERM event at Chatsworth. Putting this series together was a long and tortuous process, but the six event directors decided to try to make it work despite their respective conflicts. Owners, riders, viewers and spectators will all benefit — this is a ray of sunshine after our winter of discontent with the FEI.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 21 April 2016