So what has British Eventing done wrong?

Orangehorse

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I read a long thread at the weekend about how many people are not going to affiliate to do British Eventing this year. Leaving aside the cost of diesel, and personal circumstances such as having children and can't afford it any more, what has been going on? At one time it was everyone's ambition to do affiliated eventing - you could be in the same class as a world champion and you might be in the same class as a future Badminton winner, everyone had to start at the beginning.

There was a similar thread not long ago about the cost, but eventing has always been expensive. For anyone working in an ordinary everyday job it was a case of an entry being the same as half a week's wages, having to take annual leave to go to a mid week event and for the ordinary person with an ordinary horse, competing at Novice was usually as much as they aspired to.

However if you had a real special horse you could aim for the top, taking a second job in a pub at night and getting up very early to exercise the horse. I had a couple of friends who managed to do a first level three day event on this basis, one even worked in London in the week and came back at the weekends to ride, as the wages were much higher there and her parents kept the horse going.

But it seems that in general people are now very disillusioned and I wondered what has been going on.
 

HappyHollyDays

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Its expensive and you can compete unaffiliated for much less on the same courses. My local XC venue has cancelled their first BE event because there were so few entires and they just couldn’t afford to lose money once they started the ballot process. There are no such problems filling spaces when Horse Events run the same type of event over a weekend at the same venue.

As a volunteer I have only fence judged once for BE and never again but I’m happy to help the organisers at Horse Events because they are well run and they look after us brilliantly.
 

Patterdale

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The introduction of 80 classes was where it all went wrong. It’s no longer aspirational because anyone can do it. Which leads onto the problem of the type of competitor the 80 classes brought with them. A completely different clientele with completely different needs and demands, often a non horsey background and often kids.
By introducing these classes, BE also put themselves into direct competition with unaffiliated venues.

Won’t be a popular view but you can pretty much date the beginning of the decline of BE with the introduction of the 80 level.
 

RachelFerd

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It's hard to leave the cost thing aside. Eventing has always been expensive and always will be, but the cost of living at the moment is shooting upwards and the cost of fuel is madness. I will spend more on fuel getting to and from Oasby next weekend probably than the entry fee cost me. I am in a very lucky position of not having to worry too much about the cost, because I have no kids, no mortgage and secure work. Very aware that I am in the lucky few here - it is NOT normal.

I think what might have gone critically wrong a few years ago is disagreement between BE and some aspirational event organisers who were denied the opportunity to run BE events at the time they wanted to - leading to series of Cotswold Cup. Structured unaffiliated series has led to more people being able to access good value BE-like eventing without affiliating. That makes sense on an individual level, but on a macro level it is not sustainable. Those with a passion for the sport need to pull together, not apart.

I also think that there's not been enough innovation to keep things fun for grassroots competitors who aren't on the path to Badminton GR. I think lots is being done in this space now, but hard to resolve quickly. Also not helped by some stuffy attitudes in the sport that things like having a restricted section for less experienced competitors is a form of 'dumbing down' (it's not...)
 

Roxylola

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Changing the abandonment insurance has put me off
Cost has gone up significantly this year for anyone just wanting a couple of runs
Its been so wet it's hard to get out and train this early
Ballot dates are very early imo
 

TPO

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I don't event but have friends and acquaintances that do and I'm on a few eventing FB pages. There are a lot of unhappy and disgruntled people out there.

People at a higher level, 2*+, appesr to be struggling to find enough events and the cost for them has gone right up I gather.

At all levels the removal of the abandonment insurance has upset a lot of people.

I saw a post about one event that wasn't running because it hadn't received enough entries. Now we've had awful weather so it's understandable thst people might not have been able to get horses fit enough but not a great sign.

Also unaffiliated appears to be going from strength to strength. I've even seen posts from Scottish people looking to travel down south for the cotswold Cup.

Then you've got members in Scotland, way down south and possibly Wales who don't have access to as many events yet pay the same as people who could go to an event where weekend if they wanted.

The pathetic prizes if you are fortunate enough to win don't seem to help morale either after paying £££ to get there.
 

milliepops

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Changing the abandonment insurance has put me off
Cost has gone up significantly this year for anyone just wanting a couple of runs
Its been so wet it's hard to get out and train this early
Ballot dates are very early imo
I barely follow the scene now but i saw Withington have cancelled this year citing the extremely high cost as a result of the loss of abandonment ins as a big factor.
That's an important date in the calendar for higher level combinations as they don't run below Novice and even when i was out and about it was quite a smart event early in the season. i think this decision will prove to be pretty catastrophic :(
 

RachelFerd

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People at a higher level, 2*+, appesr to be struggling to find enough events and the cost for them has gone right up I gather.
So, I kind of tip into this category (event at 2*, but not above) - and it is a bit of a falsehood to say cost has gone right up. If you event at 3*+ you need the higher level of membership which is a one off £100 extra. Drop in the ocean in eventing terms. If you are a pro rider eventing a lot, the removal of abandonment insurance (which most of the pros were CLAMOURING for) will easily make that money back. The only people who are being hit in the pocket at all are those who are 1-horse amateurs eventing regularly at intermediate+ (and there are hardly any of these).

On struggling to find enough events - this IS real. But lets not forget - the UK has had the best eventing calendar IN THE WORLD for many years. It is where people choose to come and base themselves because there is a lot of top quality eventing and the journeys (compared to US or Aus) are very short.

That's what makes it feel especially worrying to me - this is the best country in the world to event in, and yet it feels like it could all come crumbling down.
 

TPO

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So, I kind of tip into this category (event at 2*, but not above) - and it is a bit of a falsehood to say cost has gone right up. If you event at 3*+ you need the higher level of membership which is a one off £100 extra. Drop in the ocean in eventing terms. If you are a pro rider eventing a lot, the removal of abandonment insurance (which most of the pros were CLAMOURING for) will easily make that money back. The only people who are being hit in the pocket at all are those who are 1-horse amateurs eventing regularly at intermediate+ (and there are hardly any of these).

On struggling to find enough events - this IS real. But lets not forget - the UK has had the best eventing calendar IN THE WORLD for many years. It is where people choose to come and base themselves because there is a lot of top quality eventing and the journeys (compared to US or Aus) are very short.

That's what makes it feel especially worrying to me - this is the best country in the world to event in, and yet it feels like it could all come crumbling down.
I think that was sort of their point. The people I know/know of are amateurs and it *is* a lot of money and they dont stand to make it back with their one horse.

The changes seem to benefit the pros but the others appear to feel almost forgotten and unseen? I'd imagine the category of higher level amateur is very small so are they the sacrificial lambs while grassroots and pros are offered other benefits?
 

RachelFerd

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I think that was sort of their point. The people I know/know of are amateurs and it *is* a lot of money and they dont stand to make it back with their one horse.

The changes seem to benefit the pros but the others appear to feel almost forgotten and unseen? I'd imagine the category of higher level amateur is very small so are they the sacrificial lambs while grassroots and pros are offered other benefits?
Again, I think that's a little bit unfair. People were surveyed about abandonment insurance, and the overall response led to its removal. I suspect that people hadn't really thought about the trade offs that would be happening (like - no refunds!).

Helen has also said that they're going to be trying to work out a better position for the higher level amateurs (who are unintentional sacrificial lambs for the extra £100... which they too will make back from the removal of abandonment insurance, so long as they don't have lots of abandonments...) - but I also don't think they are sacrificial lambs, because this is one of the only places in the world where you can be a higher level amateur rider and go out and compete at 3/4* level, qualify and run at 5* and never have to leave the country to do so.
 

Mule

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The introduction of 80 classes was where it all went wrong. It’s no longer aspirational because anyone can do it. Which leads onto the problem of the type of competitor the 80 classes brought with them. A completely different clientele with completely different needs and demands, often a non horsey background and often kids.
By introducing these classes, BE also put themselves into direct competition with unaffiliated venues.

Won’t be a popular view but you can pretty much date the beginning of the decline of BE with the introduction of the 80 level.
I think 80cm was brought in to Eventing Ireland last year. I evented for a couple of years in Ireland at 90cm. I noticed, looking around at my group, our fitness and position was massively different (worse) than the riders at 100cm up. I can imagine 80cm riders would be similar
 

LEC

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I think the gap between the elite and GR has widened. I actually see it with my friends now. Some have very good horses and as the years go on the chances of an awesome result FEI are less as the sport has become heavily professionalised and the investment from parents into their kids is insane.
Eventing has always been hard work, but there was a chance an average jo on an average horse could make it to Badminton to just compete. That’s practically impossible unless a freak. I have a tonne of friends who have all been 4/5* in the 90s and early 00s but now I don’t think they would manage it. Brexit has also made life harder, my dream was to go to France and compete in a 2*, that’s impossible now.
My plan this year is to mainly SJ and occasionally event which is pretty depressing. I don’t feel enough love for the sport to push myself into huge sacrifices to afford it and I am truly privileged as no mortgage, livery, steady job and no kids!
This might all change when I finally get the wheels back on the bus as so behind where I want to be due to no arena.
It’s a ridiculous elite sport but like they say in politics and economics when the middle class feel the pinch, then you are in serious trouble. This is what is happening now, the middle class is being hit all at the same time by huge cost increases everywhere and wage stagnation.
 

ycbm

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The introduction of 80 classes was where it all went wrong. It’s no longer aspirational because anyone can do it. Which leads onto the problem of the type of competitor the 80 classes brought with them. A completely different clientele with completely different needs and demands, often a non horsey background and often kids.
By introducing these classes, BE also put themselves into direct competition with unaffiliated venues.

Won’t be a popular view but you can pretty much date the beginning of the decline of BE with the introduction of the 80 level.

It was predicted by a lot of people at the time, including me, that BE 90, then 80, then including ponies and young children, would be the death of BE eventing.

It meant that many, many, competitions moved to permanent equestrian centres, removed the thrill of competing at country estates which weren't open to the public, and then because it needed the venues BE were forced to drop the rule that no centre could use a BE course for anything but BE, which opened the door to unaffiliated events of the same standard but much lower cost than BE, and hey presto, we end up with what we've got today.

It was totally predictable. Why would anyone pay BE level fees to follow a 12 year old on their pony round a 2ft 8in course that can be hired any day of the week?
.
 
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sportsmansB

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I think 80cm was brought in to Eventing Ireland last year. I evented for a couple of years in Ireland at 90cm. I noticed, looking around at my group, our fitness and position was massively different (worse) than the riders at 100cm up. I can imagine 80cm riders would be similar
Eventing Ireland only have a very few one off 80 events, it is not run as a matter of course at all. 90 is still the standard introductory level.
Both horse and rider fitness at 90 could definitely be better - I'm sure that is the same BE 80 & 90.
 

RachelFerd

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I think the gap between the elite and GR has widened. I actually see it with my friends now. Some have very good horses and as the years go on the chances of an awesome result FEI are less as the sport has become heavily professionalised and the investment from parents into their kids is insane.
Eventing has always been hard work, but there was a chance an average jo on an average horse could make it to Badminton to just compete. That’s practically impossible unless a freak. I have a tonne of friends who have all been 4/5* in the 90s and early 00s but now I don’t think they would manage it. Brexit has also made life harder, my dream was to go to France and compete in a 2*, that’s impossible now.
My plan this year is to mainly SJ and occasionally event which is pretty depressing. I don’t feel enough love for the sport to push myself into huge sacrifices to afford it and I am truly privileged as no mortgage, livery, steady job and no kids!
This might all change when I finally get the wheels back on the bus as so behind where I want to be due to no arena.
It’s a ridiculous elite sport but like they say in politics and economics when the middle class feel the pinch, then you are in serious trouble. This is what is happening now, the middle class is being hit all at the same time by huge cost increases everywhere and wage stagnation.
I think its still possible for people to get their 'average' superstars to Badminton/Burghley, even if not to be competitive. Manor Missile and Charlotte Brear come to mind jumping around Burghley in 2015 and 2016 - her first horse and h half Shire. Most recently jumped DC in the 4*S at Bramham in 2019 before retiring from the sport. COVID has just probably slowed people's progress at getting to 4/5* down.

Lauren Innes is also out there as a full-time jobbing amateur about to go 5* - her horse is super smart and I'm sure wasn't bought for peanuts - but she does only have him plus a youngster.
 

Mule

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Eventing Ireland only have a very few one off 80 events, it is not run as a matter of course at all. 90 is still the standard introductory level.
Both horse and rider fitness at 90 could definitely be better - I'm sure that is the same BE 80 & 90.
I could understand if they brought it in fulltime though, because of the increase in revenue.
 
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Squeak

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BE has always been expensive but I'm not sure it's always been quite so proportionately expensive. I certainly can't warrant the cost of it anymore. I'd been planning on doing some UA's but with the increase in petrol I unfortunately don't think I can justify even that anymore.

I worry that things are only going to get worse for BE, with living costs rocketing it unfortunately is one of the first things that can go, especially for GR riders who can do local UA SJ for £12 a class.
 

Patterdale

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It was predicted by a lot of people at the time, including me, that BE 90, then 80, then including ponies and young children, would be the death of BE eventing.

It meant that many, many, competitions moved to permanent equestrian centres, removed the thrill of competing at country estates which weren't open to the public, and then because it needed the venues BE were forced to drop the rule that no centre could use a BE course for anything but BE, which opened the door to unaffiliated events of the same standard but much lower cost than BE, and hey presto, we end up with what we've got today.

It was totally predictable. Why would anyone pay BE level fees to follow a 12 year old on their pony round a 2ft 8in course that can be hired any day of the week?
.
Spot on.

But I’m not sure there’s any going back now. A lot of those lovely old courses are lost already and gone forever.
A major misjudgement, that’s for sure.
 

Starzaan

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One of my liveries is a VERY talented young rider, currently competing at 2* and on the world class development squad at just 17yrs.
i helped her with a project for college where we worked out the cost of running one of her horses for a year. It costs their family £30k per year per horse. They have four.
That is ridiculous.

I am also stunned to see that I now have to pay to register as an owner. My horse is being competed by someone whilst I’m too injured to ride him, and I now have to pay £100 to register myself as an owner, otherwise he will be considered ‘rider owned’.

it’s all just got ridiculously expensive, and one can compete UA for much less, over the same tracks.
 

daffy44

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I havent evented for ages, so my experience is not relevant, but I used to teach one of those magical one horse amateurs who got to a high level. She had a full time, non horsey office job, one horse, who she bought reasonably cheaply as an unbacked three yr old, backed him herself and together they were successful at 4* Blenheim, Hartpury etc, they were also on the Equine Pathway when the horse was younger. This horse is older now and retired from competition, and the rider, dedicated and talented as she is, says she wont event again, she says too many of the eventing venues have gone, and she simply cant afford it anymore, its such a shame.
 

RachelFerd

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One of my liveries is a VERY talented young rider, currently competing at 2* and on the world class development squad at just 17yrs.
i helped her with a project for college where we worked out the cost of running one of her horses for a year. It costs their family £30k per year per horse. They have four.
That is ridiculous.

I am also stunned to see that I now have to pay to register as an owner. My horse is being competed by someone whilst I’m too injured to ride him, and I now have to pay £100 to register myself as an owner, otherwise he will be considered ‘rider owned’.

it’s all just got ridiculously expensive, and one can compete UA for much less, over the same tracks.
You've always had to pay to register as an owner - that isn't new.

I saw your cost estimate before and that's whopping isn't it - but I'm also not surprised by it. I have done the sums on my two and whilst i'm not a big spender, I'm still spending only just under the UK average salary on keeping and competing my two.


Spot on.

But I’m not sure there’s any going back now. A lot of those lovely old courses are lost already and gone forever.
A major misjudgement, that’s for sure.

I'm not sure that we can blame the BE80 and BE90 crowed on killing the lovely old courses. I think a lot of estates are being managed differently due to intensifying pressures which mean that having a hobby activity of running a lovely bespoke horse trials just isn't an option any more. Correlation not necessarily causation.
 

Patterdale

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I'm not sure that we can blame the BE80 and BE90 crowed on killing the lovely old courses. I think a lot of estates are being managed differently due to intensifying pressures which mean that having a hobby activity of running a lovely bespoke horse trials just isn't an option any more. Correlation not necessarily causation.
I think it is a big part of the reason actually.
The grassroots venues taking so many entries away from the likes of Witton Castle for example led to reduced entries for them and thereby made the ‘decision’ to stop running almost inevitable.

Add to that that the new breed of grassroots 80/90 riders have a very different aim - lots just want to get round 80/90 forever. So the tougher, more challenging traditional tracks suffered because these riders didn’t see the point in doing a challenging 90 when you could just skip round Richmond with no intention of ever moving up a level.
 

Starzaan

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You've always had to pay to register as an owner - that isn't new.

I saw your cost estimate before and that's whopping isn't it - but I'm also not surprised by it. I have done the sums on my two and whilst i'm not a big spender, I'm still spending only just under the UK average salary on keeping and competing my two.





I'm not sure that we can blame the BE80 and BE90 crowed on killing the lovely old courses. I think a lot of estates are being managed differently due to intensifying pressures which mean that having a hobby activity of running a lovely bespoke horse trials just isn't an option any more. Correlation not necessarily causation.
I’m a little less cross now haha. I don’t remember ever having to pay to register as an owner before, and was very grumpy about it. You have made me much less grumpy if this is not a new thing. Haha!
 

RachelFerd

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I think it is a big part of the reason actually.
The grassroots venues taking so many entries away from the likes of Witton Castle for example led to reduced entries for them and thereby made the ‘decision’ to stop running almost inevitable.

Add to that that the new breed of grassroots 80/90 riders have a very different aim - lots just want to get round 80/90 forever. So the tougher, more challenging traditional tracks suffered because these riders didn’t see the point in doing a challenging 90 when you could just skip round Richmond with no intention of ever moving up a level.

I don't know Witton well, because when it last ran I was based in the SE. I just don't see how a grassroots venue could be taking away entries from an event running N/I/A - I suspect there was a multitude of reasons, not a single place to point blame at. My experience of talking to grassroots riders is that they relish the chance to get to ride around the beautiful parkland venues and its one of the big attractions of becoming a member. It's just that quite a few of those big one-offs now also run an unaffiliated day (eg. Cholmondeley) - so no need to join.

I feel quite passionately that grassroots eventing should be part of the same organisation with a clear pathway to the higher levels, in the same way that BD riders can take a journey all the way from intro to grand prix - if they want to. But it is equally fine to stop and stay at the level you are comfortable at and enjoy. That applies to eventing and to dressage equally.

I also think it is totally right that there are some venues which will be straightforward introductions at the level, and others where you will be challenged. I think we could be a bit better about ensuring that qualifying performances come at those higher-end difficulty venues - perhaps a 2-tier rating system.

We've got to be realistic that the golden age of the English country house is long-gone.... eventing will suffer from that, but it isn't necessarily eventing's fault.
 

ycbm

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I just don't see how a grassroots venue could be taking away entries from an event running N/I/A

If a Pro has an 80/90/100 horse and an N/I/A horse that they want to run the same weekend, they'll go to the one where they can run both.
.
 

Tiddlypom

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My experience of talking to grassroots riders is that they relish the chance to get to ride around the beautiful parkland venues and its one of the big attractions of becoming a member. It's just that quite a few of those big one-offs now also run an unaffiliated day (eg. Cholmondeley) - so no need to join.
I was just going to mention Cholmondeley too. Isn't it back to back weekends with the BE event first, followed by the UA, and both organised by Musketeer?

It's a fabulous setting.
 
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RachelFerd

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I was just going to mention Cholmondeley too. Isn't it back to back weekends with the BE event first followed by the UA, and both organised by Musketeer?

It's a fabulous setting.

I think so, yep. And last year it felt especially cheeky, because it was the BE80/90/100 grassroots replacement for Badminton... and then the unaff ran over identical courses the weekend after :eek:
 

I'm Dun

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Changing the abandonment insurance has put me off
Cost has gone up significantly this year for anyone just wanting a couple of runs
Its been so wet it's hard to get out and train this early
Ballot dates are very early imo
this. I planned to join this year as I think we should support BE. But the abandonment insurance, the cost of few runs have meant I'm not going to and will go unaffiliated instead. I think the lower levels who prop up the higher levels financially are realising they don't get a good deal and are voting with their feet.
 

Ambers Echo

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I think so, yep. And last year it felt especially cheeky, because it was the BE80/90/100 grassroots replacement for Badminton... and then the unaff ran over identical courses the weekend after :eek:
And it’s a Brigante Cup qualifier this year. Which arguably makes it more attractive unaff than BE.
 
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