Is there anything more soul-destroying than a newsfeed full of cancellations, restrictions, and videos of empty toilet paper aisles? There sure isn’t, friends. But here at Eventing Nation, we like to tackle all of life’s most pressing concerns with a smile on our faces and a (very, very full) glass of wine in our hands, and while we might be feeling the cruel irony of our #GoEventing hashtag right now, we’re determined to spread a bit of joy and gung-ho eventing spirit even while the world’s start boxes are on hiatus.
We’re a competitive bunch, us eventers — why else would we pay exorbitant sums just to spend half a day sprinting between a Portaloo and a hock-deep collecting ring? So to perk us all up, it’s time to dive into a much-loved EN tradition. Welcome to 2020’s iteration of March Madness, the bracket competition that gives us all a chance to voraciously argue for an illustrious victory for our favourite event horses. This year, we’ve got a piping hot selection of steeds on offer for you.
HOW IT WORKS
32 of the world’s best event horses will come together in an NCAA-style bracket, with the winners of each bracket advancing to the next round and facing a formidable new opponent. In order to avoid a year-long argument amongst team EN — and because we’d really, really love to bypass any aggressive comments chastising us for missing anyone — we pull our contenders from the Olympic rankings, which are updated to the end of 2019. Then, we use those rankings to fill four categories, as follows:
- Seven horses from North America
- Seven horses from the UK and Ireland
- Seven horses from continental Europe
- Seven horses from New Zealand/Australia
“But that doesn’t equal 32,” we hear you protest. And you are not wrong, you little math whizzes. The next step is to find the four best-ranked horses from the rest of the world. Each of them will then be added to one of the above groups in chronological order, and seeded based on their position in the rankings.
These horses represent the top ranked six of each of their global regions. If a horse has since been sold to another region, they’re skipped over. (Before you come for us, know that this only happens in one case — and its previous rider is still represented by another horse in the bracket.)
Once pulled from the rankings, each horse is given a seed number within its group. The higher their position within the Olympic rankings, the higher their seed number. Winners of five-stars or major championships in 2019 will automatically be given top seed.
HOW THE WINNER IS CHOSEN
It’s all popular vote, baby, so the fate of your favourite is entirely in your hands. We wholeheartedly encourage as much devious social media campaigning as you fancy undertaking. This is, after all, Very Serious Bizzness: the winner will get full bragging rights as the EN readers’ favourite horse in the whole WORLD.
Each round will open up for voting as follows:
Round of 32, Part 1: Wednesday, March 18
Round of 32, Part 2: Friday, March 20
Sweet 16: Thursday, March 26
Elite 8: Saturday, March 28
Final 4: Monday, March 30
Championship: Wednesday, April 1
The first round of the bracket is a big one. It sees 32 horses come under public scrutiny. That’s, you know, a WHOLE LOT OF HORSES to consider in one fell swoop, so to make it a bit easier, we’re splitting this first round into two parts. Today, we’re looking at North America and the UK/Ireland, with some seriously heavy hitters stepping up to bat including a Badminton winner, the USEF National Champion and Pan-Ams gold medallist, and one very popular tiny red mare from the Emerald Isle. There’s also a bit of an exciting wildcard in the form of Palm Crescent who, with Megan O’Donoghue, tops the US Olympic rankings after a seriously consistent 2019 season.
But that’s quite enough of our waffling — now, it’s over to you. Take a look at the first round bracket below and get voting — we’ll close the votes on the 20th of March.