Tuesday, June 3, 2014

3-Day Eventing thoughts... and plans!

I spent the first day of June announcing the Show Jumping phase at the IEA Horse Trials.  This is a job that I look forward to every year.  Saturday I started in dressage then moved to Show Jumping, with making the announcements and raffle drawings Saturday night at the Competitors/Volunteers Party... and did Final Inspection wrangling first thing in the morning and then did SJ the rest of the day Sunday.  It's a fantastic event with a wonderful organization. Even better, IEA Horse Trials also hosts one of a handful of Classic Format Training and Novice Three-Day Events.  If you've never heard my rant about the FEI and what they did to eventing when they nixed the classic format, or how much the classic format is important for horses and rider... be prepared... it's coming up next.

Eventing, for those who don't know, evolved from the cavalry. Dressage = parade grounds, obedient, relaxed, etc.  Cross Country = battlefield, endurance, speed, bravery, etc.  Show Jumping = soundness after the battle, obedient, responsive, etc. Cross Country day in the Classic Format used to entail 4 phases -- Phase A Roads & Tracks (a warm up), Phase B Steeplechase (speed), Phase C Roads & Tracks (cool down + added endurance) and Phase D Cross Country (test of endurance, bravery, etc.).  A decade ago, for what I'm sure are entirely monetary reasons, the international governing body of the sport, the F.E.I., dropped the speed and endurance portion of day 2 (phases A, B and C) and left just a longer Cross Country track (to distinguish between a 3 day and a horse trial which has always only had cross country). They decided it would no longer be part of the championship events - WEG, Olympics, etc.  Then those changes trickled down... they no longer became part of the events used to qualify for the top events.  That is the only part that makes sense.  It's silly to qualify over a different type of event than you are competing.  However, that change spelled doom for the classic format.  Soon it was no longer even an option to use a classic format event as a qualifier.

There are currently no longer ANY Advanced or Intermediate classic events anywhere in the country (I'd guess the world, but I don't know for sure).  And in the US there is only 1 Preliminary Classic 3-Day.  Thankfully that is close by in Kentucky and has a fantastic organizer who understands the value of the classic format. 

A classic format 3-day horse is, in my opinion, the epitome of the equine athlete.  They are very much akin to the Ironman triathlete... extremely fit and capable of doing a variety of work. They aren't always "easy" but to me, there's nothing like them.

I have participated in 4 classic format events, all of them with Char.  My first was a Training Level 3-day in Canada before they existed in the US.  Unfortunately, lameness issues meant we drove north of Toronto and were unable to compete.  The following year (2000) we made the trek north again and were able to complete the event!  In 2001, we were entered in the Preliminary (CCI*) event in Kentucky. I even borrowed a top hat and tail coat to wear in dressage (the ONLY time I've ridden a horse without a helmet since an accident in 1993). 

Lameness issues plagued us again leading up to the event and we made it a little over halfway around the course before calling it a day.  In 2003, we completed the Training 3-day at Mayfest in Kentucky.

Events that host Classic 3-Day Events should be praised and helped as much as possible.  To have 2 such events in my "backyard", IEA hosting Novice and Training and MSEDA hosting Training and the country's (world's?) only Preliminary, is amazing to me! I hope those organizers (IEA and Lee Ann Zobbe, and MSEDA and Mary Fike) know how much their continued commitment means to me and to the sport - even if the sport doesn't always recognize it!

I'm not sure I have the energy to compete at the Preliminary level again.  It's quite a time commitment, but I haven't ruled it out either. What I do know is that I have a 10 year old extremely talented mare who is quite capable of that level. It may take us a few years to figure out if we can do it again, but we'll figure it out.  In the meantime, I KNOW she can go Novice and Training... and so can I.  So we've developed a plan...

2014 - get her going smoothly at Beginner Novice. Part of the reason for not pushing is because the farm is still for sale (I've been told I will be receiving an official offer THIS WEEK!) and will need time to set up at a new farm AND get used to what that entails, both financially and effort-wise.

2015 - renew my USEA membership so I can get her to some recognized Novice horse trials. We need to have numerical results (aka "finish") 4 Novice horse trials in order to qualify for....

2016 - forgo my beloved announcing job at IEA and COMPETE in the Novice 3-Day Event.  Shirley will only be 12 at that point and I have no doubt she can do it!

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