So here I am, getting tucked into bed the evening of my first day at the American Eventing Championships. This is a wholly new experience for me, never having been to a championship event, and a new experience for the US Eventing Association. Not only is this a new, unseasoned eventing venue in general, coming attached to the pursestrings of some much discussed political characters, but it also happens to be a record setting debut- at over 700 competitors, this event marks the biggest in US Eventing history.
Because of all this novelty, both personally and as an organization, it’s a little difficult to compare to AECs of the past. But one thing is exceptionally obvious, and that is that this event is very…. pretty.
Don’t get me wrong, pretty is nice. Dressage is pretty. Hunters are pretty. But something about seeing an event be so gosh-darned-beautiful is just… odd. The fences are beautiful works of art, the lawns manicured to the nth degree. The water complex sports a jumbotron as its centerpiece. Hell, they served baked brie and beef wellington at the welcome party.
But when I think of this sport, I tend to think of the grit, and the sweat, and the tears, and the adrenaline of two hearts pumping as they race across the country. I think eventers are known for embracing a Get ‘Er Done attitude that sometimes doesn’t come across with the grace the other disciplines so easily assume.
Does this AEC version of eventing still jive with the “eventing culture” (described from my own biased view)? Can eventing be made pretty like some of the more popular [sponsored] disciplines and still retain its heart and soul? For those non-eventers, would you consider eventing if it more resembled the format (cross country derby style) presented in the Wellington eventing showcase? For the eventers out there- would you stay if cross country took on a slightly more technical, and less sprawling and terrain inspired approach? Weigh in!
I absolutely hate it and won’t support it with my $$$. The novelty of having a fancy event like this is what’s drawing a lot of people, but I think it’s a very slippery slope. If this is what people flock to – on site restaurants, fancy barns, etc – and seem to not care about the sport itself, namely the XC, then this is the way everything will start to go in the coming years. I would absolutely hate to see that happen, because as venues get more expensive, prices increase across the board. You want fancy? Get ready to pay h/j prices. To me that would be an absolute tragedy, and would price many of us out of the sport.
What’s bothering me a lot, looking at pictures and videos and watching the results, is that five horses fell yesterday and no one is talking about it. FIVE!!!! On day 1 of XC!!! it might be pretty and all, but this is not safe, guys. We’ve done something horribly wrong here if that many horses are falling in one day. My definition of a great event certainly isn’t one where horses are falling down left and right. It’s not good, and it’s not ok. But enjoy your on-site sushi restaurant, I guess?
That’s really interesting. I haven’t been watching coverage, but with all of the focus on falls lately, it seems crazy that no one is talking about that. I don’t even think that many fell at Rio (I could be wrong on that) and those were all at the top(ish) level of the sport. Is it possible that they’ve made the xc course too technical in trying to condense it?
It’s the footing, not the fences. They’ve manufactured a derby field type surface – all weather footing topped with very short sod that has not been down long enough to take root. Looks much like a putt putt course, and rides very very slick. Add to that the fact that the courses are very twisty and turny and loop around and around from arena to derby field, in and out, it’s making a very ripe situation for horse falls. XC is not meant to be like this. It doesn’t work like this.
Yeah that makes sense. Especially for horses that are used to more natural terrain, and longer, more spread out courses.
This! She beat me to it (and was way more eloquent than I would have been)
Amanda nailed it. If I wanted fancy I would have stayed in H/J land. Eventing is about grit, independence, and adapting to ever-changing conditions and terrain – it’s what’s challenging and different about our sport! And as much as a derby-type sport would probably make it “easier” for me, I want to succeed at REAL eventing!
I’m going to ditto Amanda. I’m just getting back into Eventing but I don’t want to pay HJ prices to event and it is horrifying to me the number of horse falls that happened yesterday. Something is very wrong with the course design that that happened and it made me honestly relieved that I didn’t take any for ATCs.
The footing is quite interesting. The grass is almost cut too short if anything, and was very slick yesterday for sure, and was definitely causing problems on some of these tight turns and the steep hills. To their credit, they have gone and been very quick to add sand to problem areas. We had a ton of rain yesterday and now that it’s more chopped up its actually riding better. Just wanted to provide everyone with an update from what I’m seeing at the moment.
I don’t have a dog in this fight, so to speak (since I do not event), but I agree with what Amanda has said. Trying to condense eventing is not a good thing.
I will never event because riding outside of an arena scares the crap out of me (#jumpersforlife), but I have fence judged XC enough to form an opinion. Part of the reason that I enjoy XC fence judging is the grit and raw talent of the riders and horses, and of the course itself. Granted, sometimes that grit and rawness results in falls and deaths (I was about 100 yards away when Philippa Humphreys fell at Jersey Fresh this year—NOT fun), but I think holding the cross country on such manicured footing this year takes away some of the appeal for me. It genuinely amazes me to watch horses soar over giant, solid obstacles at a gallop, and that’s why I enjoy fence judging so much. Plus, watching BNRs and Olympians whiz past you isn’t half bad either.
Don’t get me wrong: Tryon is a gorgeous facility, but I think that kind of fanciness should be reserved for dressage, Hunters, Jumpers and Equitation, and cross country should always be held on variable terrain out in the open field: exactly how the sport was created in the first place.
I would seriously consider eventing if it went for more of a derby style format for XC. That’s something my horse would honestly excel in (I think!) and the safety factor would make me feel a lot better about things.
Again with no dog in this fight (don’t even jump these days), but it doesn’t sound safer if there were five horse falls. Unless someone has data indicating that 5 is lower than normal? I don’t know.
Except that so far it’s not looking any safer. Quite the contrary, actualły, with the number of horse and rider falls we’re seeing. The more derby-like format has nothiñg to do with safety and everything to do with spectators, numbers, and sponsorships.
Just…yuck is how I feel about it.
I feel like if I wanted to doHunter Derbies at fancy barns on mostly level footing I would do hunter derbies. I do eventing because it’s a different sport. If evening just becomes dressage plus a hunter derby, it’s not really eventing anymore.
idk i think the horses that have been most successful at cross country historically won’t be as successful in this type of course. it lends itself almost more to a show jumping style ride, as opposed to the rangy 4wd type way of going of many of the xc greats.
so if the sport were to move more in this direction, so would the type and trend of horses. maybe. idk. personally i don’t mind seeing a variety of types of cross country horses bc they test different attributes and strengths of the different rider/horse combination, but i don’t think i’d like every single xc course to be like this.
plus obviously, this specific event in particular appears to be having footing issues. that’s possibly something that would be resolved with better time and preparation… but the bones of the course are still somehow nqr.
I was running dressage scores all morning and the place is beautiful but watching xc felt more like watching a jumping show on grass. It will be interesting to see what they do in the future. They purchased an adjoining golf course with plans to make that the xc course. Not sure if that would be better or not. With the WEG bid for 2018, they have a lot to improve and a short period to do it in.