I tried my first pre-novice one day event a few weeks ago and I’ve been mulling things over for a while, and I think British Eventing need to have a change around to encourage amateur riders to move up through the levels.
Firstly, what were my reasons for trying a pre-novice? The dressage for starters. It’s the equivalent of a very simple prelim test and my problem is that unless my horse’s attention is being kept on circles or movements etc he tends to do a bit of sightseeing. He has always performed novice tests better than prelim tests. So I find the dressage phase boring and almost an insult to our training.
The other comment I would make about the simplicity of the dressage test is that it allows riders on less schooled horses to ride it and then thunder around a fair sized cross country course. Surely this can be dangerous because people don’t have the correct grounding to safely ride the cross country. And their horse doesn’t have the suppleness developed on the flat to assist his canter and bascule over jumps, which could lead to injury or an accident.
I have a jumper which reads “showjumping is dressage with speed bumps” and it reads very true. Get the flatwork right and the jumping comes naturally. If competitors aren’t encouraged to have a good standard of dressage then the jumping phases become messy.
The second reason I had for trying a pre-novice was that I was ready to test myself over larger and more complicated courses. The complication being more of a factor. The intro competitions I did at the end of last year involved steps and more combinations, which my horse thoroughly enjoyed. Having a straightforward course doesn’t encourage riders to think and it doesn’t test the horses ability as much as slightly smaller jumps with a question. Surely eventing isn’t about who’s jumped the highest and fastest?
My thoughts after completing my pre-novice event was that there was a big jump between competitors at BE90 level and BE100. There were also less than a quarter of the number of competitors in the higher class.
Personally, I found the dressage test much more suitable and encouraged better training, however it still isn’t even a novice test because there wasn’t any medium gaits. It’s not like novice dressage tests are out of the reach of most horses. I think all horses are able to ride a novice test, or at least should be. So that could still be made harder, in my opinion.
The showjumping phase was full of highly competitive egos, but the course itself was up to height and testing enough. The main difference between intro and pre-novice was, however, the cross country phase. It was meaty. And what’s more it had the technicality I desired. My problem was the ginormous ones, which just showed my horse and my green-ness at that level. He tackled the combinations superbly.
So after a lot of thought, I hit upon an idea similar to the BE100+. Why doesn’t British Eventing have a plus class for intro? It could be that the dressage tests are taken from the BE100 list, or that the cross country course integrates the two levels.
It would require a bit of organisation, but I am positive it would be a success. It would encourage amateurs and novice horses out of the pool of Intro, where so many get bogged down, without becoming dangerous to horse or rider due to them outfacing themselves with the jumping. Just take one Horse Trials and work out the percentage of Intro competitors. That is where the money comes, but you would still get all these entries, possibly more, by running a BE90+ class which would then make BE100 level seem within reach for amateurs like myself, and thus encourage good training and progression to move up through the levels which will lead to a higher calibre of horse and rider, even amongst us amateurs.