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Pippa Roome: ‘Remember to jump the alternative instead – not as well…’

*Opinion*

  • H&H’s eventing editor Pippa Roome ponders on errors of course and coping when events run late

    MUNSTEAD last Sunday marked my first BE90 of the year, in the sun on perfect ground. As it’s a local event, I walked the course on Saturday and there was no obvious reason to go wrong, so I wondered what I’d missed when I saw eliminations for errors of course on the scores, mostly at fence six.

    This consisted of a step up to an arrowhead, with an alternative at element b, so I can only assume riders jumped the alternative in addition to the straight route rather than instead of it. The other errors, I suspect, were competitors jumping the BE80 or BE100 fences alongside ours.

    The dressage and showjumping both ran very late. There are numerous reasons this can happen, some of them no one’s fault. Us amateurs are not always as cool as the professionals about changing our warm-up plans and good collecting-ring stewards – who are of course volunteers and must be treated politely – can help by giving accurate, consistent information about how many people there are in front of us.

    A board so everyone can see where they stand is useful at the showjumping and if numbers are being taken rather than running to the set order, it can help for the steward to leave a gap after every five for a multiple-horse rider to be slotted in. Without this, “seven to go” can turn into “12 to go” if multiple-horse riders are squeezed in, which is frustrating, whereas if there’s a gap left every five and it isn’t filled, no one is massively put out.

    I realised afterwards that with waiting time, I’d been on my horse’s back for around 45 minutes extra across the two phases. Although he’s very fit and steamed round the cross-country just two seconds over the time, I’m aware of being a taller rider (5ft 8in) on a smaller horse (15.1hh). Next time, I’ll dismount if I have to hang around to ensure I’m not causing additional tiredness through his back.

    Scope and temperament

    WATCHING the showjumping led me to speculate on what makes a good horse for the amateur rider. We don’t often ask, “How forgiving is he?” when we enquire about a potential purchase, but perhaps we should.

    Scope is a factor in forgiveness. There’s no need to buy a horse that can soar round Badminton to do BE90s – and being overhorsed is dangerous – but if you compete a horse at a level which is towards the limit of its scope, you have less leeway if you get your approach speed or take-off spot slightly wrong.

    Temperament is the other factor. Will the horse forgive you if you are unbalanced over a fence and still jump the next, or will he take offence and refuse? Will he be genuine and jump even if your approach isn’t quite right – while also having the self-preservation instinct to stop and keep you both safe if things are really wrong?

    Clashing events

    MY next run will be at Larkhill. It’s a pity it clashes with South of England – being based less than 90 minutes from both, I could go to either.

    I wanted to support organisers the Nolans at South of England, where they are running a BE90 for the first time, and there was a pull in trying out a new course. The fact South of England has secured insurance to cover 85% of entry fees in the event of abandonment due to adverse weather was also an incentive.

    However, in the end I entered Larkhill, chiefly because the BE90 was on Sunday, whereas South of England’s was Saturday, which – as a rider with a full-time job – gives me a full day to get ready.

    I’ve entered Ascott-under-Wychwood too, so am delighted to see it’s going ahead after a call-out for entries to make the event viable. Worryingly, I’m seeing a good few posts on social media along the lines of “Today is our ballot and decision-to-run date – get your entries in” which suggest many fixtures are struggling for entries.

    ♦ What are your tips for coping when an event runs late? What unusual questions do you ask when buying a horse? Write to hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 31 March

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