Reflecting On Eventing

I am not an upper level rider. The reality is that I will likely never be an upper level rider – I plain and simple don’t have the guts. Maybe in another life. Training seems attainable. Prelim seems like a stretch but maybe something I could be interested in down the road. Anything over that and I start to have heart palpitations thinking about it. The cross country questions at the upper levels are no joke. It’s not a lets see what happens kind of game. It is literally ride or die.

Paul-Tapner-Bonza-king-of-rouges-fall-1430a mike bain
PC: Mike Bain

Watching the recaps of Badminton this weekend left me feeling pretty damn defeated. There is no feeling quite like the one you get leaving the start box and then crossing the finish line with your partner in crime – at all the levels. I have a lot of respect for all of the upper level competitors out there. Watching the videos I was legitimately concerned for a lot of the pairs on course though. The number of horse and rider falls was not insignificant. I understand that the thrill of it is a big part of the sport but when you see so many horses struggling with the questions you have to think about if the questions being asked are the right ones. There were more hung legs than I could count.

I hope that I never have to watch an event where so many horses nearly flip over (or do) and crush their riders. It was a big “win” in my eyes that no one was more seriously injured. It makes me sick that not dying (literally) is now a win for the sport though. I am not saying that I am the person that should be asking these questions but I really hope that the powers that be do. I feel like there is a disservice being done to our horses and our sport in some regards. There have to be less dangerous ways to weed out the top competitors. Horses shouldn’t be flipping left and right and horses shouldn’t be run until collapsing either… That is in the same taste as a ground jury that doesn’t stop a horse that is visibly bloody in the mouth to me but I won’t touch that again.

All in all there were a number of solid runs for some horses but that doesn’t overshadow the number of falls for both horse and riders in my eyes.

For those of you that event – am I alone in the feeling that something seems off here that Badminton (and other upper level tracks) is known for being a bloodbath? Do you think its the questions themselves or rather related to maybe specific pairs? For those of you that are outsiders to this discipline what are your thoughts?

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  1. I don’t like course design where the punishment for a mistake is a hung leg. Glance off is a lot safer. Way too many horse falls (or near horse falls) at Badminton, IMO. And distances that just didn’t work out right, even when the horse was jumping through the question correctly.

  2. 100% agree with you! I thought Rolex was fun to watch – riders challenged but not overfaced. A course that rewarded good riding and good efforts. When I watched Badminton, it was NOT FUN to watch, It was scary and WAY TOO MANY falls, hung legs and close calls. It was carnage.

  3. I was a little shocked when I saw the number of horse falls and rider falls. I don’t really know what to say when an event produces that many.

  4. Could not agree more. When it’s painful to watch it’s no fun. There is no skill required in being a daredevil, and to not allow these human and equine athletes to showcase their skills over their brainless guts and grit is a disservice to the sport and those participating. Let them be challenged, let the course weed out the mediocre from the great, but please don’t let good horses die because someone thought it would be fun to see how far they could push them.

    1. Yep. I don’t think that the course was necessarily designed to intentionally punish but it seems like it definitely wasn’t intentionally thought about to avoid those things. Or if it was they need to reevaluate.

  5. that video made me sick to my stomach. So, so many horses and riders falling — it’s not good for anyone, ESPECIALLY all the atheletes invovled

  6. I’m not an eventer, but I’ve watched enough eventing to form some kind opinion. Horse/rider falls are often part of the sport; sometimes shit just happens and a fall is inevitable (see Philippa Humphreys at Jersey Fresh last year…her fall was a freak accident, NOT a fault of the course design). But the number of falls at Badminton vs those at Rolex is staggering. Clearly there is a way to test the horse and rider fairly without putting lives at risk, and Rolex proved that ten-fold. Like you said, I think it’s sad when staying alive is a ‘win’ for cross country. My hope for Jersey Fresh this weekend is obviously no serious injuries for any horse/competitor, and if there are any falls, I hope they are minor and not life-threatening.

    Speaking of ‘bloodbaths,’ every year I ask myself how something like the Hunt Cups in VA and MD continue to run. This year at the MD Cup, less than half the starters crossed the finish line, I think it was like 2 out of 10 or something. Granted, the MD and VA Hunt Cups aren’t 3-day events, but the number of falls at those competitions is insane.

    1. I will have to look up the Hunt Cups. I am not very familiar. Like you said though when comparing other events Rolex has continued to improve in number of horse falls and Badminton seems to remain steady as carnage central. Crossing my fingers Jersey fresh will be safe for all involved.

  7. As a non-eventer, but eventing fan, I agree with what most posters are saying above. I just think that the emphasis needs to be on the line between bravery and stupidity. Just because they can do things, doesn’t mean they should be. I feel like that should be common sense, but I guess it isn’t?

  8. Honestly I’m not sure I saw a meaningful difference between watching the live stream of Rolex vs badminton this year (tho admittedly I missed the earliest Rolex trips that apparently had reportedly low completion rates).

    I don’t like watching horses get hurt or watching riders fall. I also don’t like watching riders make poor choices for their horses. One thing that really struck me was the difference in commentating between Rolex and badminton. The badminton commentators held no punches in critiquing a ride. Often saying things like “we knew that was coming” or, in the case of that Italian rider who fell at jump 2, “perhaps that was a blessing in disguise”.

    Idk. I feel like we get a post like this a couple times a year asking whether the sport is acceptably safe. And whether we should express public outrage over courses that take a higher toll than expected. Sometimes these posts include a call to action (like, if you feel such and such about eventing here are steps you can take to make a difference) and sometimes it’s just…. “Wow that was awful, honk if you agree”

    1. It is discussed regularly because there are regular occurrences that make people (even eventing enthusiasts) squirm. I personally saw a huge difference in the outcomes from Rolex and Badminton and the Badminton course is notorious for causing serious carnage. Taking one jump out and then adding 5 others that cause mayhem and punish the horses repeatedly doesn’t really seem like a win to me. Sure there were people that didn’t finish Rolex but I didn’t feel like there were as many horse falls or near rotationals. That’s where I see the difference. Maybe that’s off base.

      I didn’t post to say OMG EVENTING IS DEATH it should be banned… Just vocalizing a concern after watching badminton and feeling frightened for a lot of the horse and rider pairs on course. It personally makes me contemplate my desire to even pipedream about moving up the levels or someday having a horse that does with a pro.

  9. I don’t watch heaps of eventing but I watched Ingrid’s Badminton ride & thought that course looked bloody hard – & she’s one of the top riders. I’ve never seen a long format event but maybe Denny Emerson is right & it was a better & safer test? I can’t see the sport going back to that any time soon though.

  10. Holy crap. Insanity. I feel like the event was sponsored by whoever profits from the refill of those air vests. 🙁