Andrew Nicholson: Eventing in March is a lottery *H&H Plus*


  • The eventing season has started – for some people. I tried to go eventing at Tweseldown last Thursday, and I was quite sure that if I started the dressage, I’d get a complete run into my horses. Yes, it was wet and cold, but only once have I started the dressage there and not finished the day – about 25 years ago, when it snowed. I’d already been round the cross-country twice when they called it a day because the snow was so heavy.

    Last week, we knew before we started that the ground in the dressage warm-up and arenas was going to be messy, but it can look bad there and the ground takes it well.

    I was first to go in the advanced intermediate (AI), which was the first of the intermediate sections, and was warmed up for cross-country, having jumped all the practice fences. The ground there was perfectly OK – even the warm-up fences that the BE100 competitors had used were fine to jump.

    There were at least eight of the 15 or so of us in the AI down at the start, and I was shocked when the announcement was made that the event was being abandoned. I enquired why the plug had been pulled, and was told that the organisers were worried about the inexperienced competitors riding in wet conditions on heavy ground, and that some of the more senior riders insisted it was dangerous to keep going.

    Tweseldown’s going is very sandy, and it thrives on rain – it gets deep there when it’s dry, not wet. There were no new fences on the course, so there was no element of mystery about how anything was going to ride.

    Eventing in March is always going to be a bit of a lottery. I don’t mind an event cancelling, or abandoning – these things happen. But when you’ve got a small section of advanced horses ready to do intermediate cross-country, why not run those and get some feedback about how the course actually rides before making such a huge decision?

    Of course, the emergency vehicles need to be able to get around the track safely, and the organisers posted on social media on Saturday evening that the fact ambulances were unable to move around was the final deciding factor.

    I was also surprised to learn that the course was open for cross-country schooling on the Friday. If that was possible, perhaps it would have been better to try to stage the lower classes that were scheduled at the weekend?

    Swiss training

    It’s the Cheltenham Festival this week, but sadly I’m not there this year as I’m in Switzerland doing my job as cross-country coach for their team. Our training has been indoors so far this year, and this is our first outdoor session at Avenches.

    I’m delighted that my former ride Jet Set has completed the first half of his Olympic qualification with Swiss rider Robin Godel. He looks very good in the videos I’ve seen and Robin rides him well.

    He should be a good back-up to Robin’s other horse for Tokyo – although who knows what’s going to happen. Will the Olympics be delayed, moved, cancelled? Coronavirus is adding even more tension and pressure to the season.

    Ref Horse & hound; 12 March 2020