I wasn’t sure I was going to write about this.
Partially because it has had no shortage of opinions and thoughts shared on the matter, and partially because it’s more comfortable to turn a blind eye to things that impact negatively on what we love doing.
I don’t want to have to justify my crazy sport, nor do I think I should have to.
But that idea is predicated on the notion that the sport just looks crazy, and we are not, in fact, actually crazy.
Eventing has always been tough. A test of bravery, trust and athleticism. It didn’t have to be pretty, you just needed to get the job done. Of course, it had it’s fair share of falls and accidents which led to innovative new safety measures like frangible pins. But has the inclusion of these features meant we are now building harder tracks because we have installed these safety nets?
I don’t know if one can argue that Captain Mark Phillips does not know his job when it comes to course design.
And yet, with the selection criteria required to be a 5* competitor, how was it that almost half the field ended up being eliminated or retiring?
There were 67 riders and only 33 made it past Cross Country day having either been eliminated (20), retired on course (11) or withdrawn before starting (3). Of the 33 across the line, only 1 was able to make time and 10 received jump penalties (activating frangibles, refusing or a combination of both).
49% – Finished cross country
30% – Eliminated
16.5% – Retired on course
4.5% – Withdrawn from starting
If we compare this to the 2018 results, we have 70 horses (72 intially, but 2 were withdrawn before the first inspection). 45 horses were able to complete the cross country, 3 having made time, 6 refusals and only 1 activation of the frangible pins. 10 horses were eliminated, 13 were retired and 2 were withdrawn prior to XC day.
64% – Finished cross country
14% – Eliminated
19% – Retired on course
3% – Withdrawn from starting
Taking it back further, in 2017 we had 61 combinations entered and 45 were able to finish the day. Once again, 3 people were able to make the time and this time, only 4 people retired whilst 11 people were eliminated. 1 horse was withdrawn prior to XC.
74% – Finished cross country
18% – Eliminated
6.5% – Retired on course
1.5% – Withdrawn from starting
An interview with Capt. Mark Phillips post Burghley had him stating that the majority of riders weren’t answering the questions the way he intended and thus resulted in these refusals, falls and frangibles.
Frustrating I am sure. But if these riders, who have ridden enough high level courses successfully to qualify for the event aren’t able to understand what’s being asked of them, then perhaps we need to question if what we are asking is fair.
The term “fair” is relative
I’ve seen the argument thrown around a few times now that none of the riders were complaining, and instead chalked it up to “bad luck” or “misjudgment”, but I wonder if riders actually feel like they could vocalize issues with the course. No one wants to be labelled as a troublemaker, and are you really wanting to pit yourself against someone like Capt. Phillips?
I have also seen people in support of this years track, claiming “eventing is no dressage test and Burghley is not the place to debut at 5*”, and yet we saw many an experienced combination fall victim to the course.
A large number of top level riders were also not present, having gone to the European Championships. Perhaps this was responsible for the large fluctuation in results?
And maybe there is something to be said for the lack of options taken by riders when presented with that choice, however I keep coming back to the issue that this was repeated over and over again by the riders, which makes me question if they didn’t think the course would present the issues it did.
So tell me, Burghley 2019….
A true Cross Country test or unnecessary carnage?