Mark Phillips: Top events, cast out to the winds *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    The weather made the Festival of British Eventing quite an ordeal as an organiser and the mess is taking on a whole new dimension in the clear up.

    Happily, though, we were able to produce some of Gatcombe’s best footing — with the help of the estate we started mowing earlier, so the grass cover was the best ever.

    I apologise to competitors in the novice championships. I always take pride in the way my courses flow and I patently failed with the novice tour around Avening Banks. I was, though, pleased with the picture from the other courses.

    The FEI won’t listen

    I agree with Mark Todd about the steeplechase of modern cross-country, with the “friendly profiles and groundlines”, which encourage riders “to take more risks” (column, 27 July). I agree with Harry Meade (column, 3 August) when he says that courses today are a “sprint” and laments the loss of the longer courses where rhythm was vital to “conserve horses’ energy”.

    However, Mark is out of order in saying designers don’t work with riders. For years top riders, including Mark, have been invited to the valuable “Amsterdam Meeting”, where top designers, coaches and riders discuss current design trends.

    Sadly, over the years, the FEI has chosen not to listen. Their proposed rule changes will only take the sport further down the steeplechase sprint route.

    The major federations agree implementing these changes for next year is lunacy, so hopefully common sense will prevail and the changes will wait until 2019.

    I like the proposed idea of having five-stars, with the new 1.05m one-star level and the idea of one unified format at the lower levels, which cuts back on horses’ wear and tear.

    But the proposed new five-star format, including the World Equestrian Games (WEG) and Olympics, with its 45 efforts over 10 minutes at 124 meters per effort is a disaster waiting to happen. It takes the sprint to a whole new level.

    Worse still, the proposal is to leave the current four-stars out of the star system, to call them whatever they want and that they will not be part of the qualifications for WEG or the Olympics. Hopefully that’s just bad European English. Can you imagine the winner of Badminton being told they are not qualified for a Games?

    The trouble is the FEI is struggling to explain to the International Olympic Committee that there is a bigger and better form of the sport out there above the Games. It’s sad to see the events that have carried eventing for so many years in England and America being cast out to the winds.

    I believe Adelaide and Luhmühlen should take up the new five-star format, even with all its inherent risks. It’ll be interesting to see which way Pau jumps. We can only hope Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky survive as places where riders aspire to compete. The new American four-star, Fair Hill, must wonder what poisoned chalice they’ve landed.

    We face the most dramatic changes in the history of eventing. The sad thing is that most people believe there is little point responding to the FEI because they won’t listen.

    Even sadder, this is all designed to get more nations to the Olympics, which could have been done simply by changing the zone qualification system, something not even addressed in the proposals.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 August 2017