I must admit my winter has been great — because I spent most of my time in summer. For the first time in ages, I spent five weeks in New Zealand, where they enjoyed one of the best summers for years. My wife Carolyn and I had a lovely time with no horses — very spoiling.
The girls and boys at home did an amazing job with the horses, and they were all ready to go when I returned.
My first outing, at Tweseldown, was a disaster — perhaps the horses and I were a bit rusty — but I’ve never seen Tweseldown looking so good. The weather helped; there was no slopping around in the mud. The showjumping arenas looked fantastic, and the new cross-country course, which uses a lot of the old racecourse, was great. It felt like a whole new event.
The following day we went to Oasby, where they’ve done a really good job, too. It’s an event I enjoy. It is well run by Stuart and Anna Buntine’s BEDE Events, who are so far the only organisers to use live scoring, which owners love.
Leonidas II posted my first victory of the season in an open intermediate section, finishing on his good dressage score, which was a great start.
In the old days, first events of the season were usually straightforward and gave you a good, jolly run. It seems as though they have been beefed up. I guess this is partly because apparently the powers that be have said that, given that they count as qualifiers for three-day events, all events must be up to the level, and partly because we as riders request new, interesting courses — and events do everything they can to attract us.
The going at both Tweseldown and Oasby was perfect. They even had to spike the dressage warm-up at Oasby — well done to the organisers for going to the effort of doing that.
A couple of days later I went to Poplar Park for the first time in years. I’m told it has been running for 37 years — Nigel Taylor and I said we were probably there at the first one! Again, the cross-country course was good and, like Oasby, caused problems.
I had to cram these events in quickly because I then flew to Brazil to help their eventers prepare for and compete at a two- and three-star competition last weekend. The Brazilians are aiming towards the Pan American Games in Toronto this year, which will be an important step for them towards the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Speak up, don’t grumble
While we were all basking in the sun — or sheltering from the wind and rain — this winter, the FEI slipped in a new rule awarding a compulsory 21 penalties for anyone breaking a frangible pin at an FEI event.
These rule changes seem to appear quietly and then we only have a small amount of time to respond. No one wanted it, and full credit to Bruce Haskell, chairman of Event Riders Association (ERA) International, and FEI rider representative Daisy Berkeley.
They quickly rallied riders, owners and other stakeholders to get support for altering the rule change.
There was a meeting in London with the FEI, who were happy to listen to the concerns, and it looks like the change won’t be implemented in its present incarnation.
With modern communications, we had support from every corner of the eventing world. It shows what a truly global sport it is, and because of that we were able to help affect this change. We have a voice — but if riders want to have a say in their sport, they must get behind ERA International, and behind Daisy in her FEI role, and not just sit back and grumble when it is too late.
H&H 26 March 2015