So, this week I read in Horse and Hound, the Bible of all equestriads, that BE is increasing prize money next year… but also increasing entry fees and membership. So, naturally, I thought I had better give my views.
Eventing is the one thing I really enjoy doing with my horse and now, at seven years, he`s ready. However, the big off-putter to me at the beginning of the year was the cost of eventing. I mean, after all, it`s much cheaper to stick to dressage. You only need one saddle for starters! But I was hooked two years ago when I rode a friends horse at my first event. This year I had made some new associates, who were keen eventers. From a privileged background, but very pleasant and helpful non the less. I didn`t have my own transport (the joy of passing my driving test after 1997) so was thrilled when I was offered a lift to Aston-Le-Walls to do the unaffiliated BE80. These friends also helped me in the training build up. I knew the theory, the BHS made sure of that, but it`s a bit different putting it all into practice. So off we went, both horse and rider travelling well, with no forgotten kit (helped by my numerous lists dotted around the house/car/stables/trailer) and we completed with a reasonable dressage score, clear showjumping and a few cross country time faults.
So from there I lined up a list of BE90s that we could go to. Then I had to start narrowing it down because, financially, it`s not viable to go to more than one a month. Lets add it up for a moment; £60 entry fee, £10 start fee, depending on where you go diesel lets say £40. That`s already £110. Then there`s obviously the photo you need to buy after, the bacon roll because it`s just not a competition without a bacon butty. And then on top of that the equipment (I mean, if you didn`t event, would you really need three sets of boots, bandages, jump saddle and dressage saddle, as well as the cross country colours and tweed outfit?) It doesn`t bear thinking about really.
But I enjoy it which is the main thing.
Let`s get back on track though; these ODE`s that I`m entering are unaffiliated. This means I don`t have to pay membership of £145 a year. Neither do I need to register my horse at £100 per annum. Now who, except those born with a silver spoon in their mouth, can afford this fee? Let alone when the fees go up! This will lead to eventing becoming an elitist sport, with semi-talented, but super rich people buying top class eventers and winging them round courses, interfering with the horse and causing an accident. Which is what we`ve seen a lot of in recent months. It means eventing is getting a reputation for being a dangerous sport, and course builders are leaning towards bigger and scarier cross country courses, which makes inexperienced riders panic, and instead of an event being a display of a well rounded horse, it is a “slap dash dressage test and as fast as you can round the cross country course” competition.
At least at the lower affiliated levels.
This hasn`t put me off eventing, it does however frustrate me that I don`t have a hope of doing really well for myself because I can`t afford to go beyond the unaffiliated level, neither can I afford a string of horses for each event. I think British Eventing need to rethink their policies and who their target audience is. I know there are hundreds of amateur riders who would love to do low level eventing but cannot justify the cost.
Next season I personally plan to continue to go to unaffiliated BE events (at least I know then that they are built and run to a great standard) moving up to BE100, but I already know that I will only be able to do a maximum of six or seven events as that`s all my overdraft will allow! It`s time for eventing to have a shake up!