The sport of Eventing (whether One-Day Eventing, Two-Day Eventing, or the long-form of Three-Day Eventing) has been through a lot of changes over the years.
When the sport’s governing body was the British Horse Society (BHS), Eventing was known as Horse Trials. And the rules of the sport and the design and restrictions that governed the shape of the sport were very different to how they are now. BHS Horse Trials was all about jumping expertise. Yes, BHS Horse Trials had the Dressage phase, the Showjumping phase, the Cross-Country phase (and, in the long-form Three-Day Event, also had a Steeplechase phase). But the competition was weighted towards being largely about the jumping.
After a bunch of (many) years, the sport got a new governing body, the British Horse Trials Association (BHTA). BHTA introduced new rules which altered the shape of the sport, updated the safety measures built into the sport, enhanced the protections for horses and riders, and changed the design-restrictions of the on-track obstacles. The Dressage phase was enhanced and made to have a higher bearing on the overall result. The Showjumping phase was left unchanged, but the Cross-Country phase started to feature less ‘normal’ obstacles; fewer big-spread hedges and walls. Technical and water-obstacles were introduced; arrowheads to be jumped were brought in.
Again, years passed. Dressage and jumping tests became more difficult and the Dressage phase became even more influential on the overall result. New and much more imaginative technical jumping obstacles were introduced. If you could transport a typical BHS competitor straight from the 1950s into the BHTA tracks of the early 1980s, they would scarcely recognise the sport.
Decades later, and after many more changes in the rules of the sport, Eventing got a new governing body: British Eventing. And the sport was no longer called Horse Trials.
Where am I going with all of these memories?
I’m going to the venues.
In the 2019 Eventing Calendar there are a grand total of 172 competition opportunities.
I appreciate this sounds like a lot, but a great many of those competition opportunities are not for the amateur ‘own horse and full-time job’ rider.
I’ve been looking at the 2019 Evening Calendar for a different reason though; I’ve been looking for the competition venues that are no longer there.
It’s terrific that some landowners are prepared to run two, three, and in some cases, even four Events in the season, but where’s the strategic sense behind that strategy?
Where’s the geographical spread from running Events in different places? Where’s the difference in terrain from running across different types of countryside?
And where’s the longevity in pursuing the strategy of asking landowners to host more than one Event in a season?
I look at the range and breadth of the 2019 British Eventing Calendar and I feel good for the competitors. They have a solidly-run sport which protects the mental and physical needs of horses and riders.
But I look back at former Calendars and I feel sad that so many great venues are no longer open to the sport.
To me this is a management issue. If one’s local competition venue is XYZ and XYZ runs four Events in a season, that’s terrific. But it’s also dull.
What started as a bit of pre-Christmas idle thinking has expanded into a solid list.
There are fifty-seven BHS, BHTA, and BE Event venues missing from the 2019 Calendar – and some of these missing venues ran more than one Event.
To my eyes, this doesn’t look like a healthy trend for the future of a sport in which I (still) feel heavily invested.
The list of missing events is long and I wonder if British Eventing should look to safeguarding the Events on the current Calendar, and devising and deploying a strategy to recognise and build on the diversity of the Events.
It’s a long list of losses. Fifty-seven ex-Events:
Bath & West