Watching Kentucky, Having Opinions

Spent Saturday watching the livestream of Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Mars Equestrian. It ain’t what it used to be.

I understand how the changes happened. I watched from the sidelines as eventing got rid of penalty zones, created the ‘Unjumpable Fence’ between options, got rid of unjumpable fences, created split flagged jumps, and so on. I’m all for horses and riders coming home safely. But the sport has morphed out of recognition.

Show Jumping Over Furniture
First, let me say that the course was beautiful: rolling terrain, perfect green grass, gorgeous obstacles. The jumps were better looking than the furniture in my house. Better made as well. The course was pretty. Too pretty.

What I watched on my phone had no trace of galloping through the woods, leaping with abandon over whatever obstacles had fallen in your way. I’ve seen wilder courses in hunter classes with outside courses, for those of us old enough to remember these.

I was astounded at the number of skinnies and corners and skinny corners. Striding? Combinations? Holding your line? There is a name for that. It’s called show jumping.

XC Becomes A Touch Class
Galloping at speed was hurting too many horses and humans. So eventing introduced obstacles that involved slowing down and turning, as above. As the jumps got narrower, it became more and more common for riders to knock over the flag marking the side of the jump.

So, did the horse negotiate the question and touch the flag on the way by? Or did the horse push the flag with his body while bailing to the side? Apparently there is now a rule that awards 15 penalties if the horse is deemed to have avoided the jumping effort. Unfortunately, no one can tell in the heat of the moment. Not rider. Not fence judge. It has to be determined later by video.

Other classes that I am old enough to remember are touch classes in jumper shows. In addition to knockdowns you racked up penalties if your horse touched the pole with front or hind hoof. I remember spotters deploying around the ring to see what you hit.

These classes are engraved on my memory since I had the great good fortune to show a mare who was a marvelous jumper. She never stopped, never took down a pole. OTOH, she was not against brushing her toes over the jumps on her way by. Yes, I remember touch classes.

Is this what eventing has become? A class whose faults need to be subjectively evaluated by judges? Plus, the points are awarded after the fact. How can the rider plan? Did I knock the flag? Should I ease off the gas and save my horse for another day? Am I still in the running?

I am not close enough to eventing to know how often this happens, or if it affects the upper levels more than the lower, or vice versa. From a spectator’s point of view, it seems to be a hairball. Maybe XC needs to become a knockdown class. Flag down equals X points. Bumped it with your toe? Too bad; so sad.

Enough carping. It’s easy to point out problems.

Red Saddlepad
I like to honor the last place finisher. DFL beats DNF beats DNS.

BOLYTAIR B was ridden by Dominic Schramm to 31st place. They placed 27th after dressage. Faults & time on XC. Double clear in show jumping.

Yeah, they trailed the field, but let’s see you do what they did [Kentucky Memories]. Modeled on Tour de France Lanterne Rouge, “Celebrating the last-place rider in the General Classification … because you couldn’t hang on his wheel for 30 seconds.”

The folks down at the end of the field are usually thrilled to finish. They may be a first timer, or had problems along the way. Simply getting through the finish flags on stadium is enough to make their weekend, if not their year. The cynicism doesn’t creep in until you go high enough up the results that people start to smell the trophies. And the checks. KY Results.

So, what do you think about the changes to eventing? Also, can anyone tell me how Bolytair B got 31 jump faults on XC? That’s separate from 23.6 time faults. The only scores I know of end in 5s and 0s.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

4 thoughts on “Watching Kentucky, Having Opinions

  1. I like the way cross country used to be. It sounds like people have forgotten what x-c was supposed to be a test of, boldness and stamina. What’s the point if it’s just out-of-the-ring show jumping?

  2. that’s a large part of why i have stopped attending, watching the upper level competitions. Not what eventing is supposed to be.

  3. Dom was a first timer, I’m sure he was thrilled!

    20 for a stop/runout and 11 for breaking a frangible pin (tapping an xc jump with a top rail designed to give way). Another new rule/penalty.

  4. I don’t know if the new eventing is better or worse. Equally hard. Definitely different.

    Thanks for the rule info. I am gonna be so out to sea if/when I ever show up at an event.

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