H&H’s eventing editor: ‘There are vital roles beyond riders’


  • Eventing’s new boss, plus who will compete in Paris, are on Pippa Roome’s mind

    I was sorry to see Helen West stand down as British Eventing (BE) chief executive in March, “due to personal circumstances, including the need to provide primary care for her father”. Helen understood the sport from multiple points of view and took brave decisions such as shaking up the membership structure.

    The chief executive role is one I wouldn’t take on no matter what the salary – balancing the needs of all stakeholders alongside escalating costs is a hugely difficult and thankless job and the social media feedback can be vicious.

    New chief executive Rosie Williams circulated a survey to members in her first week, saying “listening to and understanding our membership is paramount to me”. The survey asked for information such as how many events you participate in and at what level, as well as seeking feedback on areas including communications from BE, safety and welfare at events and improvements that could be made.

    I applaud the spirit of seeking feedback, but feel the survey would have been more inclusive with a different structure. An early question asking responders’ role or roles (such as rider, owner, official, volunteer, organiser, supporter) and then tailored questions might have helped.

    I am a BE member, mainly for the insurance provision, but am unlikely to compete again for health reasons. The question, “How many BE competitions do you typically participate in each year?” didn’t have a zero option so I couldn’t complete it truthfully. The following questions about level of competition and what factors would influence my decision to participate in an event were irrelevant.

    On the plus side, these were not compulsory questions so I was able to leave them blank, but it felt like the survey was targeted at riders and didn’t fully account for those who are BE members – and often vital to the sport – but don’t compete.

    I look forward to seeing where Rosie takes eventing and wish her all the best in the role.

    Consistency and commitment

    Italy have won the Olympic spot for the top unqualified team in the Nations Cup league ahead of the final event at Boekelo later in October – Spain are not fielding a team at the Dutch four-star and the next-closest nation, Austria, are too far behind to catch the Italians.

    In showjumping, the ticket goes to the best unqualified team at the Nations Cup final, rather than the league winner. I like the fact the eventing route rewards consistency and commitment and it encourages nations to focus on the Nations Cup, in a sport where this is a relatively recent addition.

    The Nations Cup has a long history as a prestigious competition in showjumping so no one needs an incentive to compete – and having a ticket on offer at the final ensures that extra interest angle there, which has now disappeared from Boekelo.

    It was a pity the Canadian leg of the eventing Nations Cup, at Bromont in August, had to be cancelled because only Canada and the US confirmed their participation. As the competitions must have three teams, this meant this year’s series was confined to Europe.

    On to Paris 2024

    It’s been good to see two British combinations who had a hiccup at the European Championships, Yasmin Ingham on Banzai Du Loir and Tom McEwen on JL Dublin, setting things right at Blenheim and Little Downham, with Tom planning to go to Pau.

    The Europeans was a slightly strange one – Britain came home with team gold and two individual medals, but only Ros Canter and Kitty King will have been satisfied with their performances, with none of the other four jumping clear across country.

    Looking to the Paris Olympics, the event raised more questions than it answered about selection, and there will be everything to play for at the spring events. These days there are different pathways to championships, rather than obligatory trials. It will be interesting to see who stakes all on a strong five-star run and who opts for four-star shorts.

    This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 5 October 2023

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