The future of Eventing, questionable FEI decisions, rioting and cyborg horses



The future of Eventing, questionable FEI decisions, rioting and cyborg horses

Spring has sprung! May is here, and we are full steam ahead for the 2019 season. Land Rover Kentucky (still referred to as ‘Rolex’ by absolutely everyone) has been and gone, and now so has Badminton. It’s an exciting yet strange time-this is the first year that the new FEI guidelines have been brought in to play. As always, the FEI seek to make the simplest of things as confusing as humanly possible. Upgrading the starring system has done two things-firstly, everyone in the sport is still talking in ‘old money’, which means we all have to keep asking each other “old or new?”. When people within their own sport are lost and confused, how on earth are Joe Public meant to have a clue as to what’s what? Secondly-thanks to the aforementioned starring system-you can now essentially compete at prenovice level, but internationally. Whilst this is good news for some riders and horses as it does provide more of a stepping stone along the eventing superhighway, general opinion seems a little divided as to the decision behind this move.

The 15 penalty flag rule is yet another questionable FEI decision. At Kentucky, we witnessed Will Coleman have a less than perfect ride through a water complex. His horse did absolutely EVERYTHING to stay straight, and it did go between the flags with its whole body. In the frankly heroic effort made by the horse, a flag was knocked out and the combination were penalized. These horses are already being asked to jump the damn near impossible, and being given penalties in this scenario is-in my opinion-cruel and unnecessary. This type of rule does nothing to reward brave, genuine horses and the subsequent outrage on behalf of Will Coleman was entirely understandable.

Over the water in the UK, big events are being lost left, right and centre. Some have been axed by the FEI, others have been removed by the host organization. In the case of Belton, the National Trust have removed this essential pre-Badminton event after 39 years of sport. This was essentially decided upon because the grass got squashed down by the lorries and horses. The mind boggles. It really is a tumultuous time behind the scenes in the world’s greatest sport. It is difficult to know what the future holds, but I have made some predictions-

Oliver Townend wins Badminton, Luhmuhlen, Pau, Adelaide and Burghley, after his success in Kentucky. Closer inspection reveals he is in fact, a cyborg. As a side show at the upcoming European Championships, the FEI host a WWF style contest between the current Olympic champion cyborg-Germany’s Michael Jung-and the Yorkshire cyborg, Oliver Townend. Betting proceeds go to developing a prenovice championship of the world, to attract new members to the sport.

Pre-prenovice riders feel left out, and begin rioting at events. The FEI are forced to extend their starring system further, to halt unrest. 5* events become 6*, and the confusion increases. Four year old horses are issued with FEI passports as standard. MMR requirements are bolstered up to cope with the influx of horses coming into the sport-you can now only have three show jumps down, and must be no more than 80 seconds over the time cross country. You’ll need eighteen results within these perimeters in order to upgrade.



The FEI decree that cross country courses are too soft. Skinnies become half the width of years gone by. Riders begin to train their horses to breathe in when jumping, in the hope of avoiding the flag penalty. Riders also begin to train with gymnasts as routine-performing handstands on the pommel when jumping the new regulation skinnies is the only sure way to avoid catching a flag on a stirrup.

The FEI take inspiration from dog agility competitions, and introduce bending poles in the dressage. One time changes become a requirement, and there are rumors that piaffe will be the next thing to be implemented. Show jumping height is increased to 1m60 for the top levels. NASA are currently working with scientists and engineers to develop the event horse of the future. The world’s first cyborg horse is expected to be unveiled in 2020, in time for the Olympic Games.

The UK eventing calendar is in turmoil, after the loss of almost all venues. Aston Le Walls step in, and now host 387 events a year. Large camps develop around the venue, with riders seeing no point in returning home between events.

Whilst the universal truth of ‘what can’t change, won’t grow’ applies to everyone and everything, I know I am not alone in reminiscing about ‘the good old days’. Dressage was a thing you got through, and the cross country phase was the most influential part of any competition. Show jumping was not over-taxing, and the playing field was more level for all combinations. Brave horses were well rewarded, and everyone supported everybody else. It’s hard to know what the future holds for eventing, with the ‘powers that be’ sometimes appearing to be under the influence of some sort of hallucinogenic. Hope for the best, expect the worst?

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