Culture Shock Part III: Who’s In My Division?

Boyd Martin doesn’t always ride at Advanced level.


One of the hardest things for me to adjust to in all of Eventing has been the way in which the divisions are organized.  You have a few options all at the same level and it can get a bit overwhelming.  Sometimes you don’t even know which section you’ll actually be in until the ride times are posted.  You fill out your entry form, scribble down “Novice, please!” and then send off your entry.  When the event secretary gets it, they somehow piece through all of the entries and determine what splits will exist in each division and who goes in what section. Sure there’s some sort of token democratic process that I’m glossing over as well since you’re supposed to order your preferences for your section.  So you just sort of end up where they put you.

Even more mind-bending is that sometimes, even when you’re bombing around the low-levels you’ll have someone from the big-leagues show up in your division.  The first time I saw it as a spectator, my poor little brain was working over-time to figure out how in the daylights someone who had been to Rolex and other 2- and 3-star riders were doing Training level.  I am certain there was steam coming out of my ears.  It simply did not compute.

In Hunter/Jumper land the divisions are endlessly broken down by age, fence-height and amateur versus professional status.  There are cross-entry restrictions out the wazoo in the interest of keeping things fair organized.  The sheer number of classes is astounding.  Very generally speaking, at a Hunter/Jumper show the amateurs tend to show in amateur classes and certain other divisions are viewed as something that really only the pros ride in – either to school a horse or prep it for a client.  Of course there’s the whole issue of people riding as amateurs when they are not – but that’s another discussion for another time.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the shock of sharing a division with a big name.  I understand the process of bringing along a horse and that it does require that big names rock around the lower levels from time to time but it’s still so alien to me.  I suspect when I start actively caring about Dressage and sucking less at it, the odd occasion when I pull a decent score that somehow tops the 3* prospect I’ll come to appreciate it a bit more.  Until that day though, you can expect to see my eyes bug out of my head when I end up in an Open section along side the big names and their up-and-comers.

Go Team DF. Go Class Splits. Go Eventing.


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