Articles Written 2
Article Views 5,160

Tilly Berendt

Achievements

About Tilly Berendt

Latest Articles Written

Courage, Grit and Beyoncé: How to Make Eventing Camera Ready

We announced the final four in the 7th Annual EN Blogger Contest, and now we are bringing you their second round submissions. The prompt: "Eventing has been approved for inclusion in the Olympics through 2024 under an altered format, but the sport still faces uphill battles both in the U.S. and abroad. What can we do to make eventing more appetizing, engaging and understandable to the mainstream public? Share your ideas in an interesting, funny, informative and creative way." Take it away, Tilly!

The middle of the season is a tricky time of year for eventing fans. There’s almost too much high drama and excitement for our over-adrenalized brains to cope with, and, inevitably, there comes a moment when you find yourself at breaking point, surrounded by crumpled up pieces of paper covered with team predictions and form analyses, sobbing over an Instagram photo of Baby Burto because you JUST CANNOT ANYMORE.

This is the moment the IOC reappears, attracted by vulnerability, like a dodgy ex-boyfriend who always sends a late-night text right after you update your profile picture.

“Hey,” it says, “been missing you. I know it’s been a while, but wondered if you might still be up for 2024?”

You sigh, peeling a damp piece of paper off your cheek. On it, the word ‘Zagreb’ has been written, crossed out, circled, rewritten, and crossed out again. You have reached emotional rock-bottom, and the temptation is undeniable. You kind of ARE up for 2024. Maybe this time it’ll be different, though, you think. Maybe this time it won’t ask me to change, will love me for who I really, truly am. You relent.

“Yeah. Fine. Would be nice to catch up.”

It’s a slippery road. A catch-up becomes something more serious. You start to feel pretty good about your decision – you text your friends to tell them the news, start planning some new date-night outfits. Maybe you even make it Facebook official. Your friends confess that they always thought the two of you were meant to be, and they’re so pleased you’ve finally sorted it out.

Then it happens again.

“I just think if this is going to work then maybe, I dunno — there are just some things that I wish you’d do a bit differently,” it says.

You know what you should say to it, but you’re in too deep — too much depends on this relationship working out. You’ve read the self-help books and listened to the TLC back-catalogue and you know that change should be a two-way street (and that a scrub is a committee that don’t get no love from you), but still you find yourself thinking that maybe, just maybe, the IOC is right.

And so here we find ourselves, with a confirmed spot at the 2024 Olympics (great news) and yet another heaping helping of format changes for 2020 (news which is about as appealing a prospect as an afternoon of fecal sample collection).

While I agree wholeheartedly that eventing must adapt and develop in line with technological and safety advances, I think it’s so important that we try to make it as understandable and watchable as possible. I fear the approved changes may not be enough.

With this in mind, in this edition of No One Asked Me But I’m Telling You Anyway, I propose some slight amendments to the new format — all, of course, for the greater good of the sport.

No drop score. In the New Olympic Program for Eventing, henceforth known as NOPE, three riders will compete per team, with no drop score.

This, I presume, is to avoid hurt feelings and nicknames like Drop-Score David, which is mean but also alliterative, so actually quite funny.

However, I suggest a sharp U-turn here. All scores are drop scores. We shelve the competitive spirit and encourage teams to hug it out instead. We’re all friends here, right? #blessed

Dressage reduced to one day. Totally — dressage is capital-L laaaame. In fact, I don’t think they’ve gone far enough here. Why not just get everyone in the ring together and treat it like a hunter-under- saddle class? Twenty minutes maximum, and potential for high drama when the odds-on favourite performs a surprise drop-shoulder manoeuvre and exits at speed, followed by every ex-racehorse in the competition.

The introduction of the Olympic level. That is, CCI4* dressage and showjumping with CCI3* cross-country, ostensibly to make the competition fair for those developing nations who may not be able to train and compete at the same level as others.

Still seems unfair to me — three adjacent competitions, but all competing for the same three medals, would be better. One can run at CCI4*, one at CCI2*, and the third can be a puddlejumper division. Choose what you feel most comfortable with — we’ve got enough participation medals for everyone!

Penalties for non-completion of a test. The NOPE has very nearly got it right here, but for the fact that point penalties are SO 2016. Forfeits are the future. Didn’t complete the dressage? You may continue — on a hobby horse. Failed to make it to the finish line on cross-country day? Don’t worry, happens to us all.

To proceed to the final phase, non-finishers must stage a group performance of the Single Ladies choreography. The audience will score your performance and your placing will be determined based on their feedback. Couldn’t quite make it through the show jumping? Sorry Ruy, you must now lip-sync for your life.

XC or sexy? Look, sex sells. I know it, you know it, and Jimmy Wofford certainly knew it when he suggested that eventers should compete in ‘body condoms.’ I’m still not sure whether he was serious, but I’m rolling with it.

Cross-country must undergo a slight format change for maximum telegenic impact. Instead of the traditional format, in which riders compete over a set course, we should employ an accumulator system, in which fences are set at varying heights and difficulty levels and riders plan their own route to earn as many points as possible in the optimum time.

You can earn an extra point for each article of clothing removed (although you’ll lose five for removing your hat, because safety is very important.)

With these amendments, eventing will be easier to follow, more broadcast-friendly, miles safer, and still deeply rooted in the traditions — namely, courage, grit, and Beyoncé hits — that make it great. This will guarantee its future as an Olympic sport and will almost certainly attract legions of new fans. Oh, and we should definitely give the name ‘Equestrio’ a chance. It reminds me of bronies, and what are bronies, if not the catch-all solution to all our problems?

Who run the world? Eventers — but, like, only if the IOC lets us.

Eventing in the UK vs. the US

We announced the finalists in the 7th Annual EN Blogger Contest, and now we are bringing you their first round submissions. Leave your feedback in the comments, and please offer your encouragement and support to the finalists! We hope you enjoy their creativity, insight and love of the sport.

The author contesting a camel race … guess which country? Photo courtesy of Tilly Berendt.

After ten years in the States and six years back in the UK, playing ponies the whole time, I’m often asked whether I find the equestrian industries different in each country. I’ve given it some thought, and come up with some of the most pertinent differences.

Unaffiliated competitions (that’s unrecognised, for you yanks)

US – There are five horse and rider combinations in your class and one toddler that’s snuck in on the family Labrador. Three of the riders come off by the third fence, a fourth decides to reroute to the tailgating party, and the fifth is only here because he got lost on his way to the barrel-racing. In a close competition between you and the Labrador, the latter wins.

UK – There are 82 entries in your 80cm clear-round jumping class and all of them are trying to warm up at the same time. You can’t be positive, but you’re pretty sure the unfortunate looking girl who won it was actually Mark Todd in a wig.

Being European

US – Find some tenuous connection between your horse or your saddle and the continent and you can add a couple of zeros onto your asking price, even though you’re selling an eighth-generation show jumping import to an amateur dressage rider. It’s German, whatever.

UK – Are we? Aren’t we? And more pertinently, is my German horse going to be deported if he doesn’t start making himself useful soon?

Hunting

US –If you like the idea of jumping, join in with the first flight. If you’d rather save the adrenaline rush for the odd gallop, join the second flight. In third flight we tie your horses together like a chain gang so that when you bounce off during a particularly climactic trotting session we don’t lose them. Fourth-flighters sit in the huntsman’s wife’s living room, look at hunting prints and hyperventilate.

UK – The countryside you’re traversing might feel wild and remote, but jump the wrong six-foot hedge and you’ll suddenly find yourself in suburban Croydon, galloping full-pelt towards a semi-detached house. It’s okay, you’ll be too drunk to notice and your horse knows that if he stops at exactly the right moment, you’ll clear it anyway.

Elementary dressage

US – Can you trot a twenty metre circle? Just the one? Fantastic; that’s all we need from you.

UK – Do you remember that iconic scene in Dirty Dancing? With the lift and Patrick Swayze’s terrific biceps? You’ll be expected to perform this with your horse in the role of Johnny. Be prepared to lose two marks per judge if you don’t perform with sufficient emotion to make them have a little cry.

Riders’ parties

US – Don your Wranglers, grab an ice cold Bud Light, and catch up with Linda from Maryland to find out if she ever did break in that ornery little Mustang of hers. Ooh, look, someone brought queso!

UK – Bet a ten-year-old you never imagined you’d find yourself doing shots with a famous rider in a thirty-eight bedroom country manor house.

Celebrities

US – You once saw Phillip Dutton from across five warm-up rings at Waredaca and you’ve framed the schooling whip you were using at the time for posterity’s sake.

UK – There are no degrees of separation and everyone you know has a sordid story about something they did in a lorry park with one of the top-ten finishers at Badminton this year.

Four-stars

US – Grab ten of your closest friends and squeeze them in your Dodge Ram – you’ve got an 18 hour road-trip to Kentucky ahead of you!

UK – Your Badminton hangover has barely recovered before it’s time to stumble over to Burghley. Bored in between? Might as well see what the craic is at Pau or Luhmühlen.

Transport

US – Your gooseneck trailer is your pride and joy. It can fit 2.5 horses, at least six water buckets, and if you give up all notions of comfort, romance, and happiness, you can just about fit yourself and your partner in the tiny bedspace over your truck bed. Great fun.

UK – Your lorry sleeps four, which means it sleeps eighteen, if you’re committed enough to drink until it seems comfortable. (Spoiler: you are.)

Thoroughbreds

US – You sourced your OTTB off the backstretch at Charlestown Racetrack through a helpful contact at CANTER Mid-Atlantic. Now, you’re hoping to win the Thoroughbred Makeover and have taught him to carry an infant around a 3’ hunter course with no tack.

UK – He won the Champion Chase at Punchestown in his heyday and despite a running gag that weighs as much as a toddler and a gym regimen that would make The Rock wince, you’ve not been able to hold one side of him since you bought him.

Roadwork

US – If you occasionally ride on the roads there’s an element of novelty value attached. You might even put on a clean pair of breeches to impress passing drivers.

UK – Your horse has spent so much of his life trundling along the A272 he actually thinks he’s a Ford KA.

Land

US – “Oh, we’ve only got a small place, but with two horses we thought anything bigger than 2000 acres would just be overkill.”

UK – “I paid £525,000 for this half-acre plot but it’s really revolutionised my horse’s fitness. We only have to canter around it another 478 times before we’ve done the equivalent of a cross country course!”

Working students/pupils

US – Seventeen years old and well-versed in 85 hour work weeks, the American working student hopes to one day ride around her first event, if she can ever find the time or energy to ride her horse.

UK – They’re all two-star riders despite being too young to hold a driving licence. You will feel emasculated by them ALL. THE. TIME.

About the author: Tilly Berendt, 25, is a full-time equestrian journalist with rather a lot of fun stories to tell about the adventures she’s had and continues to have. She’s had a few incredible jobs working for some incredible horsemen (and women), including Phyllis Dawson, William Fox-Pitt, dressage phenom Andrew Gould, polo wizkid Jack Richardson, and many more lesser-known but no less educational riders.