Mary King: Five-star long format must remain the pinnacle *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s eventing columnist on 2020’s heroes, and which events should be the top of our sport

    As I write, the rain is pouring down and news has come in that Dauntsey this weekend has sadly had to be cancelled but, on balance, we have had it pretty good in the West Country. There has been an accessible event most weekends, keeping the diesel bills down, and I still have Calmsden, Bovington and Bicton to go.

    All have been well supported to the extent that Andrew Reeve, the organiser of Launceston in Cornwall, decided, for the first time, to have a second running; he had plenty of entries and, amazingly, had managed, with Lucy McCarthy’s design, to reverse the cross-country so that it was presented as a completely different course.

    Many people have done a terrific job to keep the sport alive, but the revelation of this weird season has been Miranda Collett’s superbly efficient times and scoring website, eventingscores.co.uk; I’ve found it great for following how my daughter Emily is getting on and it’s kept owners and supporters who can’t attend events involved. The dressage marks are up so quickly and you can find out your showjumping and cross-country scores almost before you’re back at the lorry.

    That and the live-streaming on offer have been brilliant; I’m now looking forward to watching Le Lion d’Angers and Pau. Watching a five-star will be a mixed pleasure, however, as I no longer have a horse who’s approaching that level. King Robert, my advanced horse, sold very quickly – via video link – to America, where he will be downgraded to give experience to a young rider.

    I’ve always been able to make a quick decision when I feel a horse isn’t going to make top level, but when you’ve bred and produced the horse yourself, it’s certainly more of a wrench.

    Horses for courses

    There’s an interesting division of opinion in the discussions about whether the Event Rider Masters (ERM) series should be upgraded to “five-star short” – with five-star dressage and showjumping and four-star cross-country – as the organising team and some riders would like.

    As with any similar debate, much of it depends on the sort of horse you have in your yard. A more “foreign” type that doesn’t gallop so well will obviously be suited to it, but the traditional event horse that perhaps doesn’t move as flashily, yet has stamina, will still be reserved for the CCI5*-L events which are, and should remain, the pinnacle of the sport.

    Prestige also depends, to a certain extent, on prize money levels. While generous, there is still a considerable difference between ERM classes, currently run at CCI4*-S level, and CCI5*-L rates, which reflect the difference in standard.

    The ERM case is that potential sponsors, who can provide more prize money, are more likely to be attracted to top-level sport. Perhaps, therefore, consideration should be given to the name, so that it conveys the idea that it’s prestigious, but without trying to give the impression that it’s the top of the sport.

    There has to be a question mark over the viability of the Tokyo Olympic Games, which is why it’s so important that the CCI5*-Ls are preserved.

    Hopefully, after a light season, there will be an abundance of sound horses for these in 2021 – another reason why talk of saving the 2021 European Championships is encouraging. Great Britain should have no difficulty fielding a squad for it, but many other smaller eventing nations are equally keen.

    Thanks for keeping eventing going

    I’m now heading into a quiet autumn with my young, home-bred horses – and being a good farmer’s wife! – but, above all, I am overwhelmingly grateful to the patient owners, determined organisers and cheerful, willing volunteers who have kept eventing going in 2020.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 8 October 2020