Video: Express Eventing

Express Eventing is designed to be an exciting off-season competition for eventers, but is it safe for participants?

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The inaugural Express Eventing competition in Cardiff, England, was designed to attract new fans to the sport of eventing. However, the crowd of 13,000 spectators inside Millennium Stadium on Nov. 30, 2008, was struck silent as British Olympian Mary King’s mount, Call Again Cavalier, was vanned off and later euthanized by veterinarians after falling at a cross-country fence. King and the 16-year-old gelding helped Great Britain win team bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong.

Express Eventing compresses the sport into one day, instead of three or more. Organizers hoped to bring in new fans by holding all three phases of the sport under one roof in one day. First, all of the competitors rode their dressage tests to music. Then show jumping was immediately followed by cross-country, with only a brief “pit stop” to change tack and apparel in between.

International participants included 19 horse-and-rider pairs, but only six completed all three phases of the event. The top three finishers all represented the home team of Great Britain: Oliver Townend took home the £100,000 winner’s share of the £250,000 available prize money. American Buck Davidson retired his horse on the cross-country course, while Phillip Dutton, also representing the United States, was eliminated for an error during that phase.

Horse Illustrated asked United States Eventing Association (USEA) CEO Jo Whitehouse whether this abbreviated competition format would be seen stateside in the future.

“The USEA has no plans to explore the type of competition recently showcased in Britain under the title ‘Express Eventing,’” Whitehouse says. “Conversely, our focus remains firmly on the traditional format of the sport through our national horse trials and FEI competitions. Even more than that, the leadership of the USEA is committed to the preservation of the classic three-day event long-format competition with steeplechase and roads and tracks.”

Will Express Eventing continue on in the UK? Currently, the answer appears to be yes. A series of Express Eventing competitions in international sporting locations has been announced for 2009, where riders can qualify for the International Cup. Organizers have been quoted as saying that the format of the competition will be overhauled to make it friendlier to riders and safer for horses.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I think that Express Eventing is not a very good idea. I think that the cross country should be left outdoors where the horses are able to run in an open space. The already have to jump these great big bold fences and to put them in a enclosed arena with other distractions is just not fair. Horses should be able to run and stretch out when attempting this big fences.

  2. Three day eventing is very demanding on a horse. Now we are expecting to fit it all into one day, with just tack changes for breaks in between these demanding phases? All for publicity? When is enough enough! I would rather have few people who truly care about thier horses than many who see this bad horsemanship and get into it for the “thrill” and not these great creatures.

  3. I think this format is way too demanding of a horse. There is a lot of stress put on a horse in three days and to try and shorten it to one day is insane and I believe unfair. I think this prooves true when only 6 out of 19 horses finished in Cardiff.

  4. Most horse-related events are for the benefit of people and the huge amount of money they spend doing it. Eventing is bad enough, but to do it in one day is deplorable. Unfortunately it seems the horses are the ones who are injured and suffer the most, rather than the riders–it should be the other way around.

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