If you have been on Facebook or the Chronicle of the Horse (COTH) bulletin boards lately, you will know there is quite a bit of chatter regarding some proposed rule changes for Eventing for 2015. Of particular interest are the rule changes proposed for EV 140: #291-14 and #292-14. You can view both rule changes here.
The first rule change, 291-14, proposes increasing the optimum time speeds for BN, Novice and Training. The proposed times for the levels are BN (350 mpm), Novice (400-430 mpm) and Training (450-480 mpm). Where multiple divisions of training are offered, Open Training will be 480 mpm. I assume that the organizers would also default to Open Novice at 430, but that is not addressed in the rule change.
At least in the southeast, we most commonly have optimum times for BN set at 350 and Novice at 400, so those speeds aren’t a big change for those of us already competing at this speed. I don’t really have a problem with the proposed optimum times, as one does not have to ride for time, but here is where I forsee a problem:
Currently the speed fault time for BN is set at 420 (a fast novice speed), and for Novice the speed fault time is 450 (Training speed). The rule proposes to make the speed fault time now uniform from BN to Training and set at the Prelim speed of 520! I am not sure I understand the wisdom of allowing someone at BN to compete at a Prelim speed of 520 with no speed faults. At 520, I would think the TD would possibly be trying to pull up a rider for dangerous riding (yellow card)!
While some riders at BN probably could safely negotiate 2’7″ at Prelim speeds, many riders arguably could not safely accomplish this feat. Don’t we want to teach our up and coming riders to jump safely and without excessive speed? What about the child on a pony who decides to run and gun at the jumps and now won’t have any speed fault worries to slow them down? I, for one, would like to see where safety implications this rule might create have been addressed. I wonder if anyone has looked at the possibilities that it may create some big safety concerns!
In addition to basically eliminating speed faults at this level, this rule proposes at least one larger stadium jumping fence at each level. Basically, one vertical and one oxer each are allowed at larger height. For BN, the largest allowable height is 2’10”, for Novice is 3’1″, Training is 3’5″ and Prelim is 3’9″. Overall spreads may also be increased by approximately 2″ for each level (there is a typo for the Training spread, as 1.2 meters does not equal 3’3″, but that is another issue altogether!).
I am not sure why the powers that be introduced this aspect of the rule change, unless they are trying to add fences that might make the results based less on a dressage score? However, I don’t think it is fair to competors competent at 2’7″ to worry they might have a 2’10” fence with a spread of 3’3″ on a BN show jumping course. The seasoned competitor on a green horse may not have any issue at all, but the kid on a small or medium pony who is new to eventing? Why?
The next rule is even more exciting. Proposed Rule 292-14 redefines the levels of the Horse Trials. From reading the language, we are now introducing the BN to Training Olympics. Yay! Really? All I can think is oy vey! On cross country, BN may now place obstacles on bending lines. Water may have an obstacle before and after the water and a step down may be included. I don’t mind the addition of the step down, but obstacles before and after water at BN? Bending lines? Stadium jumping now allows a two stride line.
Novice changes add to the fun: 15 meter trot circle for dressage (ok, I can live with that). For cross country, offset obstacles set on a two stride line, obstacles after a step up (two strides), it goes on! Read the rule for the full effect, but now log drops into water at Novice are permissible. So are log trakehners and elephant traps, corners and double brush. I can’t wait for the cross country penalties I see racking up, especially when added to the 520 speed fault allowable time. Stadium adds a triple bar.
Training and Preliminary changes are less drastic to me as the changes to the lower levels of eventing. I won’t go into them here (you can read the links). Reading the rule changes in their entirety, I understand where there is a desire to bridge the gap between Training and Preliminary. For a lot of riders, the jump from training to prelim is formidable. However, did Novice and BN really have to put young and amateur riders and their horses at risk by adding elements that clearly require more precision in riding at the same time as removing penalties for excessive speed?
Yes, I realize speed faults will still exist, but I question how “safe” everyone can negiotate fences at only BN height at 520 mpm. (I am going to assume the pros will have little problem and probably not go excessively fast, and they can ride and steer well enough that the added technical difficulty isn’t as much of a concern for them.) I hope the USEA and USEF gives a bit more thought to these proposed rule changes, and the safety of newcomers to eventing, before enacting them.
Submitted as the mother of an 11 year old girl, on a 14.1 pony, who is entered in her first recognized Starter Trial in early November at Rocking Horse, Florida.