We Are Closer Than Ever Before to Eventing Year-Round

Photo by Sally Spickard. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Can you believe the 2017 competition season is already firing up? This weekend’s Ocala Winter I H.T. marks the first event of the year. And if you feel like it was only yesterday that we were drawing the curtain on the 2016 season, you’re only 33 days off the mark.

The gap between the final event of 2016 and the first of 2017 is 34 days, the shortest in history thanks to the addition of Sporting Days H.T. IV on Dec. 3 (previously Pine Top Thanksgiving H.T. was the final event of the year). The gap has been 40 days exactly every year between 2009-2010 and 2015-2016, 39 days in 2008-2009, and 46 or 47 between 2005-2006 and 2007-2008. Which is to say, this year’s gap is two weeks shorter than it was a decade ago. 

There are, of course, more winter events on the calendar now as well — seven January events in 2017 (Ocala, Stable View x 2, Three Lakes, Poplar Place, Full Gallop and Rocking Horse) compared to three in 2007 (Ocala, Pine Top and Poplar Place). Correspondingly, there are more events on the Area 3 calendar year-round — 59 in 2017 compared to 43 in 2007.

And demand for them is clearly strong. There are 197 entries in this weekend’s Ocala event, down over 50 from last year but a healthy-size early season event nonetheless.

With Pine Top Advanced, CIC3,CIC2*, CIC1* & H.T. (Feb. 23-26) within striking distance, it’s easy to understand riders’ eagerness to get the ball rolling with warm-up horse trials. In contrast 10 years ago the first FEI event of the year, Red Hills, took place a full month later than our first FEI event of 2017. Of note: the first full Advanced horse trial of the season is still today, as it was a decade ago, held at Rocking Horse around three weeks into February.

Is the diminishing of a defined “off season” a good thing or a bad thing? Ultimately, perhaps, like so many aspects of our sport, the responsibility is on riders to act in their horses’ best interest. Just because there are more events available to us doesn’t mean we have to compete more.

So … who has the honor of being the very first eventer to canter up the centerline at a USEA event in 2017? When the clock strikes 7:45 a.m. tomorrow, it will be Buck Davidson on Carvelo in Ocala’s Intermediate division. Savannah Fulton and Mocha Swirl will be the first of the year to leave a cross country startbox, striking out on the Training course at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Go Eventing!