Mark Phillips: ‘I really don’t understand where eventing is going’ *H&H VIP*

  • With edict after edict from the FEI, I really don’t understand where eventing is going.

    Regarding the proposal to change the sport’s name, I cannot understand why we are hung on “tri” or “equestrian”. Squash is not called after the black ball or tennis after the furry one! We could do worse than stick with “horse trials” or even the old “military”, as our sport is still called in Europe.

    The FEI continues to say that it is canvassing the stakeholders (national federations, officials, owners and riders) on all issues and making informed decisions, but if they are not going to actually follow that policy, why keep professing it?

    I have not heard from one stakeholder who thinks three in a team at the Olympics is a good idea. In fact, statistics from Sam Watson’s EquiRatings show the opposite — that fewer teams will complete with only three per team, which defies the aim of extending our global reach.

    Many in the media say the drop-score scenario adds to the excitement. But we so often lose a horse on the final day because of an innocent overreach or lost shoe, there is a real chance of medal teams being ruled out — and huge pressure on ground juries at the final inspection.

    What’s in, what’s out

    I actually like much of the proposed Olympic format, including shorter dressage tests — let’s extend this to all events.

    Positive scoring is a red herring, because the FEI proposals are so complicated. But I agree with ditching the co-efficient, which has the effect of making the dressage more influential by turning 75% into 37.5 penalties and 60% into 60 penalties. Why not say that 75% in the dressage is 25 penalties or 60% 40 penalties, then add jumping penalties as we do now, so the lowest score still wins?

    Having a 10-minute cross-country does not worry me — current requirements are 10-11 minutes. However, not enough thought has been given to the proposed 125m per effort (45 jumping efforts in 10 minutes). We know that at 570mpm 100-110m per effort produces an exciting competition over a six to seven-minute course — these are the CIC3* parameters. I’m not sure we need another 15m per effort if the cross-country is to retain a realistic influence.

    I don’t think jumping the team consecutively with all riders in the ring is a great idea.

    It’s a warm-up nightmare and the last one is at a disadvantage with an extended wait. But if it helps TV it’s not a deal-breaker.

    You wonder who the media or TV consultant recommending these changes was — or was there one at all?

    Why not five-stars?

    It’s ironic that eight years ago we recommended a five-star system to the FEI, starting at the 1.05m level. It was dismissed out of hand, but eight years later we’re doing exactly this. This will let more nations compete, but none of the other changes will help us towards this holy grail of globalisation.

    So why not just make the existing four-stars into five-stars so eventing matches dressage and showjumping, something the FEI insists is so important, rather than calling them Classics?

    In that vein, why would we dumb down the existing World Equestrian Games (WEG), the only true four-star (soon to be five-star) championship, by bringing it in line with the Olympic technicality?

    The FEI has lost a lot of credibility with its stakeholders, who put an unbelievable amount of time into submitting opinions. The FEI sports forum (4-5 April) will be a last-ditch effort to get the sport of eventing and its governing body back on the same page.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 24 March 2016