Adam Cromarty ponders the next steps for the sport and raising the bar
THE latest easing of restrictions has felt like a weight lifted and during this long journey, British Equestrian and its member bodies did a tremendous job of getting the sport back up and running. Protocols were quickly put together to bring us back as a single-player sport and training shows were introduced. But what’s next?
There are definitely some keepers included within these recent changes. I think pre-entry and drawn orders for all competitions were long overdue. Similarly, the majority of people seem to hope that the collecting ring remains the safe haven it’s become, with a steward to adjust the practice fences and a limit on numbers.
When these changes were introduced, we quickly adjusted – although I did have to smile at a recent show when a lady, who had been on a hiatus from competing due to having a baby, walked into the office on competition day to ask if this is where she could enter.
There now needs to be some consultation on how we integrate these changes long-term. At multi-day events, entries for subsequent days should be made the night before and if space allows, any additional entries will go first in the draw. Competition start times would be handy but I think individual times might be a step too far.
A limit of horses in the warm-up is just common sense. However, as restrictions ease, surely it’s logical that the definitive number is set based on the size of the arena.
Those who travel to shows alone and others who don’t miss the continual disagreements have appreciated having a steward to adjust fences.
A tick-box exercise
ANOTHER hot topic has been the equine herpes virus. In response to the crisis, temperature checks were implemented at FEI shows, and at national shows in the UK we asked competitors to fill in a form that self-certified horses weren’t symptomatic.
However, this seemed like more of a liability-limiting, tick-box exercise; emblematic of the times we live in. Dressage and eventing dropped these quite quickly, but showjumping kept them. It’s been a nightmare for organisers. Surely a simple disclaimer upon online entry would have been simpler.
As it seems as though we aren’t overhauling the national structure to bring in age competitions, it got me thinking about the way we qualify for finals. I hate to be cynical, but should the qualification criteria up to 1.40m really be jumping “double clear”?
This formula definitely has a place where young horses are being educated, but after that it’s diluting the competition aspect.
Often courses are underbuilt and, although globally the time allowed has become a huge part of the test, some builders in Britain tend not to measure it correctly as competitors are aiming to school around to earn a place at second rounds.
There, we suddenly start to jump open waters at newcomer and Foxhunter level. These days, internationally, you’ll only find them at Nations Cups or at venues such as Spruce Meadows and Aachen. How long they will even exist is up for debate with recent calls for them to be taken out of FEI competition.
We have such a great history of producing horses and medals but, from a sport perspective, I worry that doing the same as we’ve always done will see us becoming irrelevant.
The top riders are struggling for enough competitions to jump at and we still view 1.40m as our national grand prix height, while other countries have amateur competitions extending to this level.
British Showjumping excels in most aspects, but there needs to be some fresh thinking and more communication with stakeholders if they want to stay true to their slogan of “raising the bar”.
This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 3 June 2021
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