Classic Eventing Nation

Balance, Rhythm and Control: Francis Whittington’s Riding Mantra

Francis Whittington is a leading British event rider and BE accredited trainer. He has a strong string of horses this season – his current top rides include the 10 year old Evento, who is contesting four-star and recently placed seventh at Chatsworth; the 10-year-old Exellent R, who also showed great promise at Chatsworth, placing 11th; the 11-year-old Brother Bertie, who has stepped up to three-star, and recently won the British novice championship title; and the 9-year-old DHI Fiktor Nita, who’s now stepping up to three-star, and placed fourth in the Waregem two-star last year. Francis represented Team GB at the European Championships at Blair Castle in 2015, and he’s a former gold and silver medallist at the Pony European Championships, and former 2014 British National Champion (Gatcombe, 2014).

With many years’ experience under his belt riding a range of horses, and a wealth of knowledge from his coaching experience, we asked Francis to offer some tips on riding and training sharp or strong horses, without over-bitting them.

Francis Whittington’s mantra of “rhythm, balance, control” in action with Evento at Belton International in April 2019. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

There are three key components of riding that have become my training mantra: rhythm, balance, control. They work together, and you need all three. The horse’s reaction off your leg, and whether they’re listening to your body commands, is as important in the jumping phases as it is in your flatwork. If we can get the horse to be balanced behind and be able to ‘reach under’ with the hindquarters, they will learn to carry the weight behind, and lift their shoulders more, to be in better balance.

Power and propulsion

By creating power and propulsion from the hindleg, and riding in a good rhythm, with balance, you should feel like you have an elastic ball of energy underneath you, ready and waiting for your next signal.

Sharp, strong horses can feel as if they are ‘towing’ the rider along; a heaviness in the hand can mean the rider resorts to over-bitting, and often feels like they’re using the reins to support or carry the horse. But creating more power from the hindleg helps the horse come off the forehand, and carry its own weight behind. This engagement is lightening the shoulders, and also the feel with the bit. This makes it easier for the horse to be ridden in balance.

With power and propulsion from the hindleg, the horse is ready and waiting for the rider’s signal. Amy Coxon Gilliatt is pictured, riding Lionheart.

Control to a fence

Rhythm and balance give you control to a fence. In practical terms, this means creating a good rhythm, and then balancing it with transitions and half halts, encouraging the horse to carry its own weight behind. If a horse feels heavy in your hand and is leaning on the contact, it isn’t balanced. But if you’re trying to achieve all of this on your approach to a fence, it is too late! It’s achieved in your training.

Personally with my horses, I have found that if you develop the horse as a whole and go back to the basics with the training, focussing on aspects like rhythm and engagement, you create more developed horses that have the elasticity and strength to carry themselves. It’s also a case of keeping your expectations real in terms of where they are in their development and training, and keeping everything simple. This capability from a physical point of view means they are more likely to cooperate and perform to the best of their abilities, rather then, as many strong or ‘sharp’ horses are described as, fighting the rider for control.

Rhythm and balance gives you control to a fence. Rider pictured is Beth Coxon-Gilliatt & Rieperbahn.

Transitions, transitions, transitions

To achieve this development, I advocate lots of transitions in the training – using very clear instructions, and making your leg and body commands obvious and clear – you need to achieve a positive, direct response from the horse, and you can then move on to being more subtle.

Examples would be upward and downward canter transitions, getting the horse off the leg, and the rider using their body to slow the pace as required – don’t rely on the hand. Transitions within the pace work well too, so the horse is off the leg and to a soft contact. Transitions are great for horses that are heavy in the hand.

If you’re on a cross country course practicing, you can do transitions in the warm up and before the fences. I often trot to smaller fences, as you often don’t need too much speed. You can do downward transitions after a fence to bring the horse back to you, and get that balance from the quarters. A strong or sharp horse may want to rush forward after the fence, and seek support from the rider’s hand, so transitions will help lighten them up. You can utilise small circles, to help with impulsion and activity behind.

The rider must be balanced at all times, and should be able to stand up in the stirrups with no tipping forward, or using the reins to balance. There’s a requirement for a level of rider fitness and core strength to maintain this balance, and pilates is excellent to help achieve this. Remember, if the horse has to help give the rider balance, it isn’t fully focussed on its own balance. (This issue isn’t helped if the rider is overweight – check your own fitness.)

Engagement lightens the shoulders, and also the feel with the bit. Caroline Powell is pictured with On the Brash. Photo by ‘Athalens.’

‘Most people put a stronger bit in, which won’t fix the problem’

If a horse isn’t engaged from their hindquarters, you won’t have that connection over the topline and that desired lightness in the hands; many people’s reaction to this is to then put a stronger bit in, which won’t fix the problem.

Andrew Hoy’s ride Vassily de Lassos also uses the Bombers Bits Ultra Comfy Lock Up bit for dressage. Photo by Julian Portch.

An obvious question is, what bit should we use on a sharp or strong horse?

I like Bombers bits, and their premise of reducing mouth pressures and starting from a place of comfort for the horse, and working with equine dental technicians to understand more about each horse’s mouth conformation. One of my top rides, Evento, has the Bombers Ultra Comfy Lock Up bit for dressage, which has a generous curve to follow the shape of the horse’s mouth. It removes the nut cracker action of a traditional snaffle, providing less pressure on the horse’s bars.

Francis Whittington’s ride Evento uses the Bombers Bits Ultra Comfy Lock Up bit for dressage. Photo courtesy of Bombers Bits.

I am also trying out a Bombers McHardy mouthpiece; the McHardy is ported, with a central roller, which sharp horses often like, as they can play with it. The 2.5 ring looks ideal for competition days, as the ring cheek piece introduces some poll pressure.

The Bombers McHardy is ported, with a central roller. The 2.5 ring introduces some poll pressure. Photo courtesy of Bombers Bits.

‘With bitting, we don’t want a quick fix…’

I am also going to try a Bombers Ultra Comfy Lock Up Pelham in due course. I do like a Pelham mouthpiece, but I don’t use them because a horse is strong – I like the amount of adjustability they offer in terms of tweaking the amount of control. They can give a quick release, and with the double reins, you have more options, e.g. to ride more on the snaffle rein. With bitting, we don’t want a quick fix. A bit is an addition to your training regime and tack, but not a solution to a problem.

“I do like a Pelham mouthpiece.” Francis Whittington and Easy Target at CHIO Aachen in 2015. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Through my coaching I would say that a lack of control of the horse is a major issue I see. Sometimes this can come from the rider not having any control, or having too much control, e.g. taking away the horse’s ability to travel forward in a straight line. A too-strong bit which restricts the front end may mean the power drifts out through shoulder, and inhibits the horse’s ability to stay straight to fence. It all comes back to rhythm, balance, control. These three elements lead on to each other as a continual circle.

Call Equine Management for UK Bombers Bit stockists on 01825 840002. Visit the Bombers Bits website or the Bombers Bits’ YouTube page for information. See Francis Whittington’s website for his own news.

Tuesday News & Notes from Legends Horse Feeds

Fleming Arena at Great Meadow International.

The MARS Great Meadow International has become much more than your average horse show. This year’s festival-like atmosphere promising fun for the whole family. Ok, so it is still going to be horsey–it’s a competition after all, so you’ll want to make sure you get in on the Jimmy Wofford course walk, Saturday at 1pm. Meet at the MARS Sustainability Bay.

Some other fun activities to enjoy include: Beer Garden (they have cider and wine, too!), food trucks (gourmet tater tots anyone?), live music on Friday, more than two dozen vendors in Meadow Market, Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Outpatient Rehab Center and Concussion Clinic, MARS Equestrian VIPet Cooling Station, dog obedience, retrieval, and directional demos, the Bareback Puissance, Arena Polo, and therapeutic riding demonstrations.

There’s still time to snag your tickets. A $20 general admission ticket will give you access to all four days of competition. Click here for all the ticketing options.

National Holiday: National Radio Day

Events Opening Today: Kent School Fall H.T.Morven Park Fall International H.T. & CCIS-2/3/4*WindRidge Farm Fall Horse TrialsFair Hill International CCI****/***Middle Tennessee Pony Club H.T.Heritage Park H.T.Willow Draw Charity ShowWoodside International H.T.Spokane Sport Horse Fifth Annual Fall H.T.

Events Closing Today: Course Brook Farm Fall H.T.Five Points H.T.Seneca Valley Pony Club H.T.Bucks County Horse Park H.T.Dunnabeck H.T.MeadowCreek Park H.T – The Fall Social EventAspen Farms H.T.Chardon Valley Horse Trials

Tuesday News: 

Hundreds of riders from around the country are in their final prep stages for the upcoming American Eventing Championships, and the USEA has been sharing many of their stories. Catch up with them here. [The Road to AEC: Under Pressure]

Mark Todd’s eventing career might be cooling down, but his career as a race trainer is just heating up. Take a look inside his racing farm. [‘I’m still experimenting’: take a sneak peek inside Mark Todd’s racing yard]

The test event in Tokyo was a crucial dry run for event logistics, but also in researching competing horses in hot and humid environments. Conditions last week mimic those we can expect for next year’s Olympic Games. [Hot work: Olympic test horses under intense scrutiny]

Germany is on their way to a 24th team title after taking the lead in the Longines FEI Dressage European Championships. [Germans Already In Command After First Day Of Dressage At Longines FEI Dressage European Championships]

Tuesday Video: 

Nupafeed Weekend Winners: GVRDC, Waredaca, Full Gallop, Ocala, Huntington Farm

Huntington Porch, where riders have picked up their packets for decades. Photo by Joan Davis / Flatlandsfoto.

First things first, happy 50th anniversary, Huntington Farm H.T.! The South Strafford, Vermont, event has been a welcome presence in our sport since 1969. The 50th running took place over the weekend, carrying on in the event’s tradition of fine sport and fun.

Oh man, do we have a special edition of Nupafeed Weekend Winners to celebrate with you today. A couple of our favorite photographer friends, Joan Davis of Flatlandsfoto and Lisa Madren down in Ocala, have graciously shared winner photos with us from Huntington Farm H.T. and Ocala Summer H.T. respectively. Enjoy, and thank you Joan and Lisa!

Let’s take a moment to recognize Kurt Martin and Don Chacco, who posted the lowest finishing score in the country this weekend. They took blue in the Training Horse division at Waradaca on a score of 23.9. Well done, you two, and best of luck to Kurt at Great Meadow International this weekend.

And now, let’s give a shout-out to all our weekend winners from USEA recognized events throughout the Eventing Nation:

Huntington Farm H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]
Open Preliminary: Hannah Smith & Bittersweet Aurora (51.6)
Preliminary / Training: Ayden Schain & Pyxylated Magic (37.4)
Open Training: James Foley & The Black Watch (40.2)
Jr. Training-A: June Clark & Dealin’ Diamonds (34.2)
Jr. Training-B: Emily Higgins & Sir Harry Flashman (32.6)
Open Novice-A: Thomas Davis & Boston Bullet (35.6)
Open Novice-B: Danielle Downing & Shannonbay Coco (30.9)
Jr. Beginner Novice: Molly Czub & Penguin (37.3)
Open Beginner Novice: Lisa Niccolai & Celtic Kharacter (31.1)

Ocala Summer H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]
Advanced / Intermediate: Annie Goodwin & Fedarman B (35.5)

Open Intermediate: Leslie Law & First Class (31.9)

Open Preliminary-A: Leslie Law & Typically Fernhill (30.7)

Open Preliminary-B: Elisa Wallace & Munson Slew (30.0)

Preliminary Rider: Leila Saxe & Mr Bojangles (31.7)

Modified: Katie Malensek & Landjaeger (33.1)

Open Training-A: Jonathan Holling & Fizz (26.7)

Open Training-B: Sinead Halpin & VC Attila D’Alou (26.0)

Training Rider: Olivia Hahn & Fernhill Rodger That (31.2)

Novice Rider: Lydia Anderson & My Ballyanihan Boy (31.4)

Open Novice-A: Ashley Johnson & Decadence (27.1)

Open Novice-B: Autumn Schweiss & Bamford CF (34.0)

Beginner Novice Rider: Brenda Hutton & WYO Dun Maid (28.9)

Open Beginner Novice: Catherine Frank & Only To You (30.3)

Waredaca H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]
Intermediate: Madison Foote & Harthill Diamond (44.5)
Modified: Meghan O’Donoghue & Lazaretto (33.4)
Open Preliminary: Boyd Martin & Miss LuLu Herself (31.5)
Preliminary Rider: Laura Douglas & Sophia Fab (43.0)
Open Training: Kurt Martin & Glynnwood Mer Calido (34.3)
Training Horse: Kurt Martin & Don Chacco (23.9)
Training Rider-A: Greer Melville & VS McCuan Civil Liberty (35.2)
Training Rider-B: McKenna O’Neill & Kenneth Street (35.4)
Novice Horse: Laura Douglas & Flying Private (25.7)
Novice Rider-A: Sydney Schultz & Jacarda (28.6)
Novice Rider-B: Susan Watters & Pallhkari (33.1)
Open Novice: Kelli McMullen Temple & Casanova Paddy (32.4)
Beginner Novice Horse: Erin Murphy & Call Sign Charlie (29.0)
Beginner Novice Rider-A: Gretchen Creesy & Tigerlily (34.3)
Beginner Novice Rider-B: Jenna Levesque & Imagine That (29.3)
Open Beginner Novice: Jeslyn Vaughan & Cotes du Rhone (30.3)

Genesee Valley Riding & Driving Club H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]
Open Preliminary: Corrinne Lauze & Caraway Gilly (44.4)
Open Modified: Laura Schumacher & Camelsoul (55.2)
Training: Jax Maxian & Brazen Sky (34.2)
Open Novice A: Lindsay Hafer & Rhetorical Question G (29.8)
Open Novice B: Troy Wing & Fire N Frost (30.2)
Jr/YR Beginner Novice: Lucie Swett & Ben Jammin (33.0)
Open Beginner Novice A: Courtney LaBarbera & Gatling (31.3)
Open Beginner Novice B: Heather Krysty & Renoir (26.5)
Introductory: Sophie Kretschmann & Hero (28.1)
Jr/YR Introductory: Sophie Gardner & Slane Iceman (43.6)
FEH-1: Janet Wilson & L’dor Acharon (76.2)

Full Gallop Farm August H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]
Preliminary-A: Lauren Turner & Fairway King (30.7)
Preliminary-B: Rebecca Hoos & Donnerstorm II (33.3)
Preliminary CT: Andrew McConnon & Harry (54.3)
Preliminary/Training: Ashley Goodroe & Chubba (40.3)
Training-A: Morgan Batton & Sommersby (26.8)
Training-B: Kerry Tracey & Excel Star Kate (30.2)
Training/ Novice: Hayden Jones & Reignman (31.1)
Novice-A: Susan Thomas & Bulletproof Titanium (26.4)
Novice-B: Mary Carol Harsch & Foster’s Bold Favorite (30.5)
Novice-C: Isabella Sparks & Full Gallop’s Struck By Luck (25.5)
Beginner Novice-A: Keileigh McMurray & Rapport (26.3)
Beginner Novice-B: Jessica Schultz & Hardwired (28.0)
Starter: Sophie Miller & FGF Free Banking (29.2)

Congrats to all. Go Eventing!

Monday Video from Total Saddle Fit: #GOTD for Balance and Boldness

#GOTD 🚨 I set up these three square cross rail oxers with the intention of making myself ride in a forward yet relaxed rhythm and focus on building their strength in their backs and bums with this exercise. The ground poles give you a gage of your pace (if you begin to hit the NON-ELEVATED ground poles then your horse is not in the correct balance) and the crosses help you stay centered through the grid. Always keep a quiet, tall position and a forgiving release to let your horse work his or her magic! This is a canter in exercise but with the green ones can be broken down to small crosses and trotted in of course then you’d want to shorten up the distances hence why I have the “greater than” sign. As the jumps get larger you’ll want to have a HEALTHY 9 feet distance in between each pole to jump to encourage forward riding. Enjoy my friends! #LÆSquad #fallprepsinorder #eyesontheprize

Posted by Laine Ashker Eventing and Dressage on Sunday, August 18, 2019

Jump right into the week thanks to Lainey Ashker and her newest Grid of the Day (#GOTD)! This three jump line uses a series of square oxers and ground poles to invite a forward ride while working to build your horse’s strength. It can be modified for the lower levels by changing the oxers to crossrails and trotting into the exercise. Get jumping!

From Lainey:

“I set up these three square cross rail oxers with the intention of making myself ride in a forward yet relaxed rhythm and focus on building their strength in their backs and bums with this exercise. The ground poles give you a gage of your pace (if you begin to hit the NON-ELEVATED ground poles then your horse is not in the correct balance) and the crosses help you stay centered through the grid. Always keep a quiet, tall position and a forgiving release to let your horse work his or her magic! This is a canter in exercise but with the green ones can be broken down to small crosses and trotted in of course then you’d want to shorten up the distances hence why I have the “greater than” sign. As the jumps get larger you’ll want to have a HEALTHY 9 feet distance in between each pole to jump to encourage forward riding. Enjoy my friends!”

Screenshot via Laine Ashker Eventing and Dressage.

FEI Researches Equine Health and Performance at Tokyo 2020 Test Event

A major research study aimed at identifying best practices and management of horses training and competing in hot and humid environments was conducted by the FEI during last week’s Ready Steady Tokyo test event, where Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima and Vick Du Grisors JRA finished second overall. Photo by FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi.

With optimising performance in challenging climatic conditions high on the agenda during the numerous Ready Steady Tokyo test events, the FEI had already put in place a major research study aimed at identifying best practices and management of horses training and competing in hot and humid environments.

Long travelling times and distances, time-zone disruptions, and heat and humidity pose specific challenges to horses and of course to human athletes. Monitoring of the combined effects of all these factors was put in place prior to the horses’ departure from their home countries en route to Tokyo and throughout last week’s equestrian test event in the Japanese capital. Data collected will be used to provide the FEI, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee (TOCOG) as well as National Olympic and Paralympic Committees with detailed information on equine performance in these conditions.

“High level equestrian competitions are increasingly taking place in parts of the world where the climate poses health challenges for both humans and horses,” FEI Veterinary Director Göran Akerström said.

“The study plays a crucial role in guiding the TOCOG and other Organising Committees on appropriate facilities and support, and will be used to advise and guide athletes and National Federations on the preparation of their horses in the build-up to and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

The study monitored horses before, during and after their journey to Tokyo, with data collected through under-tail temperature monitors and sensors that measure stable and travelling activity, as well as thermal comfort. SaddleClip sensors were used to record gait, speed and distance, and heart rate monitors were used on the horses prior to and during competition. The technology for the data collection was made possible through the FEI’s partnerships with Epona Biotec, Arioneo, Equestic and Polar.

Findings from the study will build on the existing framework for implementing measures to run equestrian sports in hot and humid climates that was developed for the Games in Atlanta 1996 and the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong. Olympic test events prior to Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 also included organised monitoring of competing horses.

To ensure that NOCs and NFs are fully aware of the climatic challenges, the FEI included an information session on climate mitigation protocols aimed at minimising the effects of heat and humidity in the official Observers Programme, which ran concurrently with the test event.

During next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, equestrian sport will be held at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park and Sea Forest venues. Baji Koen, which hosted the Olympic equestrian events at the Tokyo Games in 1964, has been extensively refurbished by the Japan Racing Association, while the cross country venue at Sea Forest that will be shared with rowing and canoe sprint is on reclaimed land and will be turned into a park post-Games.

[FEI Researches Equine Health and Performance at Tokyo 2020 Test Event]


First-Timers on Fire: Brooke Massie and Serendipity Win Bromont CCI4*-S

Brooke Massie (CAN) and Serendipity at the Bromont CCI-S Three Day Event in Bromont, Quebec. Photo by

It’s one thing to make it around your first four-star cross country penalty free. It’s another to finish inside the time. But you’re going double clear in your CCI4*-S debut, you might as well go ahead and win the dang thing — That’s Brooke Massie’s motto, anyhow.

She leap frogged her way up the leaderboard with her own Serendipity, starting in 14th after dressage, then 10th after show jumping before finally landing on the very top of the class on a three-day result of 45.5.

Michael Nolan and SBT Good Guy cruised to an easy clear, picking up 13.6 time penalties for second place. He and  “Killer,” a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Sue and Bob Martin, finished on a score of 47.9.

In their last run before Burghley, Dom Schramm and Bolytair B had a happy, confident clear with an additional 12.8 time penalties to finish on 49.5 points.

Matt Brown piloted Alexa Gartenberg’s Big Berry to a fourth place finish in the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse’s debut at the level.

Looking down the leaderboard, Jessica Phoenix finished 6th, 8th, and 9th with Bogue Sound, Watson GS, and Wabbit, respectively. She retired her fourth ride, Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

Lillian Heard and LCC Barnaby, who are also slated for a plane ticket to Burghley, went clear with 21.6 time penalties for sixth place on a score of 58.5.

Holly Jacks-Smither finished her two horses, More Inspiration and Candy King in 7th and 10th place, respectively.

Overnight leader Colleen Loach clinched the win in the CCI3*-S class, but swapped her lead horse. Vermont, a 7-year-old Hanoverian owned by Peter Barry, snagged the blue ribbon after producing the fastest clear round of the class, adding 8 time penalties for a final result of 41.1.

Colleen’s second ride and leader of the first two phases, Foreign Quality, follows behind in second place. An additional 15.2 time penalties gives Peter Barry’s 8-year-old KWPN a three-phase score of 44.4.

Alexa Gartenberg won the CCI3*-S U25 aboard Louis M. A clear trip with just 0.4 time penalties added gives them a final result of 42.7.

Calli Lipping and Wild Affair took top honors in the CCI2*-S U25 on a finishing score of 40.

Bromont CCI-S: WebsiteEntriesRide TimesLive ScoresEN’s Coverage

Is the Sport of Eventing Still Worth Fighting For?

Trainer Jeanie Clark was among those in attendance at the Green Mountain Horse Association Festival of Eventing, where Jeffie Chapin suffered a fatal accident on August 11. Whether or not we knew Jeffie personally, as a community we have experienced a shared trauma, and we face shared questions about how to move on in the wake of that trauma. We thank Jeanie for sharing her thoughts, penned last Sunday. 

Jennifer Chapin died today in the Prelim Rider cross country warm up at GMHA. I didn’t know her, but my heart goes out to her and to her family and friends. She is not the first eventer we have lost in recent months. Yet today, at GMHA amid rumors and worry, we as a community decided to get tacked up and keep going.

I have been fighting to participate in this sport since I was 18 months old. At that age, in my car seat, I screamed and cried until my non-horsey parents pulled over and let me see the horses in roadside fields. When I was 7, my parents told me they would buy me a pony if I could pay for its upkeep. Done within a year – sweeping, chicken coop mucking, and tack cleaning in exchange for pasture board. I quickly realized I would need more than one pony to be successful, though, so fought for my own barn. Butterscotch moved into our garage at home. I groomed him the way Pony Club taught me, and I groomed Bouncy, the plastic horse on springs, with Crayons and shoe polish. Two horses, side by side, every night.

Photo by Pam Clarke.

As a teenager, I worked for a combined driver and borrowed horses for my Pony Club ratings, all the way through A. Throughout my high school and college education I was still actively discouraged: “You’ll never have enough money to be on equal footing,” “You’re wasting your potential – you could be a doctor or an astronaut or the president,” “Why would you want to live in a vanilla world where all your friends are white and all they talk about is horses?” And still I fought for horses and for eventing.

Photo by Pete Clarke.

As an adult the fight has morphed a little, and most of the argument is with myself. “Think of how much money you would have if you didn’t have horses…What will you do if you get paralyzed… You decided not to have children to ride… Yeah, I did, but eventing is awesome and I love these horses and these people and these places and how it all makes me feel.”

I now have what I have always wanted: A farm of my own, great clients who are also friends, two (well-groomed) horses that can jump the moon and look like magical unicorns. I can usually afford to enter an event or two. I am almost 50 years old and I am fit, fast, and brave. I select, produce and take care of upper level horses.

Photo by Alison Green.

I have a fantastic young horse: He went from Novice to three-star in under two years, with little-old-me riding him. He bounded around the cross country with a grin on his face. Until he didn’t.

At Bromont this June he suddenly got tired. I gave him a pat and let him slow down, telling him not to be such a lazy warmblood and that a downhill section was coming and he would catch his breath. But he didn’t. I retired him two jumps later. Two hours later, while eating his dinner, blood from his lungs came out of his nose and into his feed bucket. He lived, and all his veterinary diagnostics tell me his issues are minor and that he might be fine to continue eventing as long as I decide to do the (expensive) maintenance to keep him from bleeding too many more times.

Photo by Liz Crawley.

Is the sport of eventing still worth fighting for?

It is too late for me to become an astronaut or a mother. It’s not too late for me to ride at Kentucky. It is not too late for me to ride another horse around his first cross country course and to feel that amazing lightbulb moment when he realizes there is going to be another jump and that he can’t wait to find it. It is not too late for me to become paralyzed or to have a horse die under me on cross country.

More horses will love their lives with me than will lose their lives. More people will love eventing with me than will be injured or killed during it. Everyday I share my students’ joy in the sport. I share their disappointments, too, but the joy outweighs the pain. Until it doesn’t. Therein lies the risk.

When I was 18 months old, and 7 years old, and even 18 years old, I was not making the decision to event. I was following a passion and pursuing a dream. Now I have to make the choice, the decision, to event, knowing that the consequences might be dire. It is an active choice, and not one that any of us should take for granted.

Please – enjoy the sport. Take great care of your horses and support your friends. But don’t assume it won’t happen to you or your horse. Decide it might happen. And decide to fight for it or not to fight for it. But decide.

Monday News & Notes from Fleeceworks

One of my favorite places in the world! #Burghleytair B is wondering if all this galloping will come in handy for his dressage test!#begoodBoly🤫🤫😴😴😴😴😴😈😈😈

Posted by Dominic Schramm on Friday, August 16, 2019

With Bromont behind us and Great Meadows and Millstreet coming up this weekend plus the European Championships in quick succession the week after, we’re really gearing up and getting excited for the Burghley, the next five-star on the calendar. Our own Tilly Berendt has already put together a big, bad course preview — don’t miss it!

National Holiday: National Aviation Day

Major Weekend Events:

Bromont CCI & H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

U.S. Weekend Results:

Genesee Valley Riding & Driving Club H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

Waredaca H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

Full Gallop Farm August H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

Ocala Summer H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

Huntington Farm H.T. [Website] [Final Scores]

Your Monday News & Notes:

Blue-green algae has been in the news lately for its toxicity, but how does it affect horses? The algae, which is poisonous, has recently been the culprit of a number of deaths of dogs across the country after they have swam in affected bodies of water. Blue-green algae is toxic to horses and humans as well, so use caution when leading your horse to water. This older article from The Horse gives excellent information on the algae and tips on avoiding it. [Blue-Green Algae Poisoning in Horses]

Help show that eventing is alive and well in Area I by signing up for a combined test at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connecticut on September 15th. A group of locals are trying to revive the Ethel Walker School USEA Recognized Horse Trials, which last successfully ran in 2011, and need to demonstrate to the school that there is enough interest from the community, starting with a combined test. Elementary through Preliminary levels will be offered, as well as extra dressage tests and jump rounds. Proceeds from the combined test will go toward rebuilding the cross country course. [Ethel Walker School Combined Test]

Eventers know a thing or two about horse care that other disciplines can learn a lot from. Dr. Laura Werner of Haygard Equine Medical Institute talks us through the types of injuries most frequently sustained by event horses, the preventative measure taken to avoid said injuries and other therapies commonly used to help keep our horses feeling their best. [Take It From The Eventers: How To Manage Your Horse Before, During, And After Intensive Competition]

Monday Video: Time lapse of a jump judge:

Time lapse of a jump judge.

Posted by Tiffany Bennett on Saturday, August 10, 2019

Pony Power! Double Gold for Great Britain at FEI European Championships for Ponies

Defending champion Team Great Britain took team and individual gold at the 2019 FEI European Championships for Ponies. The silver medal went to France, and bronze to Ireland. Photo by FEI/Łukasz Kowalski.

Prelude: Can we just pause here for a moment and do some math? Consider a 14.2-hand pony competing at the FEI the CCIP2* level, which allows for a maximum height of 1.05m (3’4″) for cross country fixed obstacles, 1.25m (4.1″) for brush. Show jumping height is 1.10m (3’6″).

Compare a 14.2-hand pony jumping a 3’6″ fence to a 16.0-hand horse jumping a 3’6″ fence. The horse has a good six inches on that pony, so let’s tack that on to the jump size. The pony equivalent of that 16.0-hand horse jumping 3’6″ is a pony jumping 4′ — nearly a four-star effort. In the straight show jumping championship, the height of obstacles in the jump-off can be up to 1.4m (4’6″) — a 5′ grand prix, basically, using our pony math — AND they’re being piloted by kids between the age of 12 and 16.

With that in mind, let’s give all these young riders and their superponies a standing ovation. What incredible athletes they all are.

The FEI European Championships for Ponies have concluded at Strzegom in Poland, and what an exciting week it has been with big shifts in the leaderboard throughout all three eventing phases. (Re-watch the live stream of each phase here.)

Daniel Haver (NED) and Zeb were 5th after dressage. Photo by Leszek Wójcik.

Eventing dressage, which took place Friday, was won by 15-year-old Sophia Rössel of Germany with Camillo WE, a 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding, on a score of 25.4. Of the seven teams competing, Great Britain took the early lead, with France in second and Germany in third.

Cross country leaders Daisy Bathe (GBR) and SF Detroit. Photo by Leszek Wójcik.

And then it was on to cross country, a test of 24 fences and 33 efforts over a distance of 2,990 meters. It was an influential day, handsomely rewarding the seven double-clear rounds out of 42 cross country starters. Great Britain’s Daisy Bathe, age 16, collected just two time penalties to move from third after dressage into first with SF Detroit, a 10-year-old Holsteiner stallion. Lisa Gualtieri (FRA) with O Ma Doue Kersidal posted a clear round with no time to sit second, and Camilla Luciani (ITA) moved into third with Camelot Damgaard. Dressage leader Sophia Rössel dropped to fifth. In team rankings, Great Britain retained the lead with France in second, but Ireland overtook Germany for the bronze medal spot.

Finn Healy (GBR) and Midnight Dancer. Photo by Leszek Wójcik.

The leaderboard was rearranged once again after today’s show jumping finale. Cross country leader Daisy Bathe had an unlucky round, pulling two rails to finished the championships in 7th. British teammates Finn Healy with Midnight Dancer, Ibble Watson with Bookhamlodge Pennylane, and Freya Partridge with Master Macky had better fortune, moving into 1st, 2nd and 4th places respectively. Collectively, the four riders’ combined score saw them to the top step of the medal podium.

Finn Healy, age 15, earned individual gold as well with his 9-year-old Connemara gelding on a final score of 31.7. The pair was 10th after dressage but jumped their way up the standings thanks to a clear round inside the time on cross country course and only one point for time in show jumping.

“It was a testing cross country track, very technical, it required some reactive riding, we all did that and got ourselves in the position to win,” Finn said. “It didn’t really sink in yet. It’s a dream come true!”

Silver went to his teammate Ibble Watson, and bronze to Camilla Luciani (ITA) with Camelot Damgaard.

FEI European Championships for Ponies: WebsiteIndividual Results, Team ResultsLive Stream

Final top 10: 



‘Some of Them Scare Me, As Well’ – Preview Burghley’s Course with Captain Mark Phillips

Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy en route to winning Burghley last year. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Somehow, we’ve managed to fast-forward through 2019 and find ourselves on the cusp of yet another Burghley. How? How, I ask you?!

Never mind – for all the end-of-season tidings it brings, we can’t help but feel like a kid hurtling towards Christmas when the biggest B rolls around again. And just to make sure we don’t forget about it in all the European Championships excitement, Burghley has released a first look at the course for this year’s running.

This is course designer Captain Mark Phillips’ fifteenth consecutive year working on the Burghley course, but he picked up plenty of experience prior to that, too – his first stint took place from 1989-1996, and his second from 1998-2000. A long history with the event certainly doesn’t mean he shies away from change, either. Last year, we saw him introduce an innovative flyover, which allowed the course to be run in a figure-of-eight, and introduced a new challenge for those riders who have ridden more Burghley courses than even they care to count.

Now, we’re getting an insightful look at the challenge that’s been set for this year’s field in a comprehensive course-walk video, featuring the Captain himself and jump jockey Bryony Frost.

“It’s completely different to what I’m used to,” says Bryony as the video opens. “It makes my job look easy – just going over a birch fence!”

We’re not sure about that, Bryony, but we’re glad to see that we’re not the only ones who piddle ourselves a little bit over the dimensionally enormous track that Burghley always delivers.

Yes, like this. Photo by Julia Shearwood Equestrian Photography.

“Some of them scare me as well,” admits the Captain with a chuckle.

So what can we expect from this year’s course?

“This year is big – in fact, it’s not just big, it’s very big,” he explains. Good start, then. But despite the emphasis on really getting the horses into the air, it’s important to remember that Burghley is always a course that focuses on positivity – it rewards positive riding, and it asks for it without any visual trickery or punishment for the horses, either. [Author’s note: I was unabashed in my praise of the Burghley course last year, which I thought was one of the best five-star courses I’d ever seen – and I wasn’t alone in my assessment. Click here to read my notes on what, exactly, Phillips did so right.]

The 2019 course follows the same route as last year’s, starting with a large counter-clockwise loop and then using the flyover to swap to a clockwise one. There’s 27 numbered fences, as opposed to last year’s 30 – that works out at 45 jumping efforts, if all the straight routes are taken, and around 60 if every long route is chosen instead. At 570mpm, we’re looking at an optimum time of between 11:15 and 11:20, though this will be set in stone closer to the event – last year’s optimum time, as a reference point, was 11:11.

“I think every course should have a beginning, a middle, where the real meat is, and an end – the beginning is to help them get warmed up, settle them, and really get them going,” explains Mark in the video. “The middle is where the questions are. And then there are two or three questions at the end to finish them off with a bit of a feel-good factor.”

Last year’s penultimate fence becomes 2019’s first fence, and it’s a Burghley classic – Lambert’s Sofa is a straightforward chair, jovially guarded by the larger-than-life figure of Lambert himself. For the uninitiated among you, it’s well worth familiarising yourself with the strange and rather sad story of Lambert who, at the time of his death, was the largest man in England. Formerly a gaoler, he steadily gained weight until he hit 52 stone, 11 pounds – or 739lb – and became a recluse. As he descended into abject poverty, he realised that he could profit from the very thing that had driven him into hiding in the first place, and he headed to London to put himself on show. Though he was a Leicester man, he remains part of Stamford lore for a rather grizzly reason – it was here that he died, while on a trip to the races. Raise a glass to him at Stamford’s famous George Hotel, where you’ll find his portrait in the front hall.

Daniel Lambert, as painted by Benjamin Marshall. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Anyway, moving swiftly on from Lambert, fences two and three on this year’s course certainly aren’t small – 1.20m tall, to be precise – but they’re straightforward, with forgiving profiles that encourage horses to really get themselves up in the air. Both fences will be the same as last year, but for some new decoration.

At the one-minute mark, we see the first real question on course, and just like last year, 4ABC takes us into the main arena. This year, the anniversary owl hole has been swapped for an upright wall, which will need to be jumped on an angle to manufacture the correct three-stride distance to the B element, a cascading fountain. Then it’s a further three strides to jump another angled wall.

Once again, Discovery Valley pops up at fence 5AB, which looks more forgiving this year – that big, beefy log we saw last year is followed up by a tall but straightforward brush fence, rather than a skinny B element.

The Captain makes up for it pretty quickly, though. Last year, fence 6 was a set of angled rails, which were considered a bit of a ‘gimme’ fence by everyone except poor Andreas Dibowski, who took a surprise tumble here. This year, they’ve been replaced by an incredibly skinny triple brush, which Mark recommends tackling at a slight angle to make it optically wider for the horse. This is the direct route, but there is an option here, which takes us over a slightly less intimidating triple brush and out over a brush upright on a curving line.

Randy Ward, Buck Davidson and Lillian Heard at the Leaf Pit in 2018. Photo by Chelsea Eldridge.

So far, so good? Welcome to the Leaf Pit, once again appearing at 7. Last year’s question included two skinny wooden arrowheads after that colossal drop, and we saw plenty of drive-bys through the day. This year, though, looks set to be the year the brush took over – once our competitors land from the bank (“a trot is fast enough [for the approach],” advises Mark), they’ll bowl on to a brush oxer followed by another skinny triple brush. And the striding?

“This is the one place you wouldn’t count,” explains Mark. “You don’t have a choice – you just have to go with whatever gravity gives you.”

There’s a lengthy alternative route here, but it looks time-consuming, and we’ll likely see most riders attempt to tackle the straight route – unless, of course, it starts causing problems.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, am I right? 8 takes us back to Discovery Valley again, but this year, we’re met by one of the widest log oxers we’ve ever laid eyes on. Four strides after clearing its six-foot top spread, there’s a beefy left-handed open corner – but, as Mark explains, the camber of the terrain will naturally direct the horses to the right spot. Or, of course, they could take the option, which will see them snake over logs and ditches.

The next big questions pops up at fence 10 and 11, the Trout Hatchery. Anyone remember last year’s jam-packed question? Allow us to refresh your memory – the first three fences saw horses jump in over a skinny cottage, pop a triple brush in the water, and then drop into the second section of the pond over a hanging log. Then they popped up a little bank – 12A – and turned tight into another triple brush. Phew. This year, the first fence is an airy timber oxer, which will see competitors take off and land on dry ground – but set on a downhill slope and with the water coming up fast, it’ll take some seriously positive riding. Then, there’s another of its ilk in the water, and because of the drag of the water, it could be quite hard to get enough momentum – so for those who think they’ll have problems, there’s an alternative route on dry land. Then, it’s a hanging log back into the water, just like last year, and then back up that step – but once again, the triple brush into the top pond has been replaced by some airy timber.

Ciaran Glynn and November Night tackle the Joules at the Maltings complex in 2018. Photo by Peter Nixon.

Joules at the Maltings at 13ABCD is the next serious question once again, and as usual, it begins with an absolutely colossal maximum dimension white oxer. Then, there’s a left-handed turn to another oxer, before a fiendishly tricky turn to a huge open corner. There’s a circuitous long route here, but it’ll add ten to fifteen seconds on the clock – so anyone who’s hunting for a win will go straight. Good luck to ’em.

The sea of finished timber at the Rolex Combinations (14ABCD) poses much the same question as last year, with one big difference – the oxers of the first and third elements have been replaced by open corners. But the skinny, airy, Vicarage Vee-style rail and ditch of the second element stays the same.

With the Rolex Combinations behind them, our competitors hit the six-minute marker, and here, Mark says, “it’s not over – but things start to get a bit easier.”

If you say so, Mark. It’s time to head over the flyover, with its new jump on top, and then onto Land Rover at the Lake at 16AB, which looks largely unchanged from last year – once again, it’s just two angled uprights with a variable stride pattern that depends on the line taken. A long pull up Winners’ Avenue follows, once again with a big, square ‘breather’ fence to break up the scenery, and then we’re into classic Burghley territory.

A note to course designers everywhere – if your feature fence hasn’t been made into a meme, it’s not terrifying enough. Photo via Libby Head.

The Cottesmore Leap at 18 is one of the world’s most infamous rider frighteners, but despite looking truly, wildly horrifying, it never tends to causes any issues. Standing at 3m wide and 4’9 high, though, it definitely takes a positive ride. Oh Captain, my Captain, why are you smirking?

The Keepers Brushes at 19ABCD, too, are much the same, with imposing hedges on curving lines and an option up for grabs, too – but the true difficulty here is in thinking ahead. The decision about which route to take will have to be made the second our competitors land from the biggest ditch-and-hedge in the world – so closing one’s eyes and kicking like stink simply isn’t an option.

Harry Meade and Away Cruising jump the egg boxes at Clarence Court, the final combination on Burghley’s 2018 course. Photo by Peter Nixon.

Clarence Court (20ABCDE) was the one combination on course that Mark wasn’t happy with last year, and he vowed to change it before 2019 – and he has done. Last year, it featured two wide egg boxes on a curving right-handed line, down to a skinny final element. This year, it’s an uphill approach to a coop, followed by three strides back down to the first eggbox. Then it’s a left-handed turn of nearly 90 degrees to the second eggbox. The alternative route, set for horses who are lacking some momentum, features an upright gate, a coop, two steps down, and another coop, which should allow them to regain some of that ‘go’.

Richard Jones and Alfies Clover at the Collyweston Slate Mine. Photo by Peter Nixon.

The last big fence, as Mark puts it, appears at 22, the Collyweston Slate Mine. A mainstay of the Burghley course, this enormous spread is visually imposing but effectively acts as a let-up fence. At the Anniversary Splash at 23AB, there are decisions to be made – do you go left-handed over the first upright brush fence, which walks as five long strides and requires a very forward ride to the second brush into the water, or do they go right-handed and take a second or two longer to ride an easy seven? It’s the last decision they’ll have to make – from here on out it’s just about trying to avoid a miss over the last handful of single fences.

The consensus? It’s a track that doesn’t differ hugely from last year’s excellent effort, which is a phenomenon we see quite often. But this can work in one of two ways – either those repeat visitors will have its questions largely sussed before they leave the start box, or they’ll think they do, and be lulled into a false complacency as a result. One thing’s absolutely certain: as always, Burghley will be the ultimate test of stamina, boldness, and forward riding – and we can’t wait.

#LRBHT19: Website, Entries, Live Scoring, Live StreamEN’s Coverage, EN’s TwitterEN’s Instagram