Mark Phillips: It’s a pity to end the season like this *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I was interested to hear about the British Eventing (BE) Extraordinary General Meeting next week, called as a result of 107 signatories out of the membership of 15,800. Trying to find out the reason for this meeting proved a challenge.

    There are the perennial gripes over cost and delays to the IT programme initially instigated back in 2016; it has been beset by reviews and restarts. This, though, is not the fault of the current board.

    My understanding is that the website will be up and running by Christmas and the entries, scores and results parts of the project will all be fully online for 2020, which ties in conveniently with the retirement of Paul Harris and his existing BDWP programme at the end of 2019.

    Balloting has long been a bone of contention and BE’s commercial and marketing programme has always been somewhat questionable. Having said that, marketing is not really the BE business so I’m not sure we should expect too much there.

    Of more concern is the board’s decision to support Stuart Buntine’s unaffiliated “showcase” event at Osborne House, by agreeing to compensate other events up to a combined total of £10,000 this year and for the next two years.

    When the organisers of some other events which ran the weekend after Osborne’s mid-week date called foul, as Osborne had not gone through the fixtures process and their entries did not fill, they received a payout from BE.

    While I can understand the desire to back Stuart’s enterprising initiative, I’ve never heard of any showcase getting this kind of support.

    Just imagine how many organisers are now crying “What about me?”. Certainly when the CIC3* at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe got crowded by the CICs at Burgham and Hartpury, entries went down but there was no suggestion of any compensation.

    There are so many venues wanting to hold upper level competitions, but held back by the fixtures process. You can imagine how they feel about this scenario. I can’t help feeling the board shot themselves in the foot spending members’ money this way.

    In a difficult weather year that managed to produce great results at Badminton and Burghley and a superlative triumph for Ros Canter and the Brits at the World Equestrian Games, it’s a pity the season had to finish like this.

    Action is needed

    The 50-penalty rule for when the horse’s shoulder passes outside a flag has never been popular with riders, trainers, officials and organisers, as it takes so long for video reviews and decisions on penalties.

    The rule has also been unfair, with riders being penalised for a slight shoulder drift, but getting away with the hindlegs “walking” around the outside of the fence. Last week in Aiken, South Carolina, Leslie Law — who had the former scenario and received penalties, while another borderline rider got away without any — made an official complaint to the FEI.

    The plan for 2019 is to sweeten the pill by reducing the penalty down to 15 penalties. The kicker is now the pelvis also has to be inside the line of the flag. This will treble the number of flag-related penalties, increase video reviews and further delay the cross-country results.

    The only solution would seem to be for course-designers to go “less skinny”, with their fences on 90° turns to give riders more chance to have their horse completely straight at take-off. Certainly some action is needed here.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 18 October 2018