For several years I have visited a little gem of an event called Bricky in Dorset. I first went to Bricky back in 2005 on my old PC eventer and I was impressed by the friendliness and interesting courses. Last year organisers Sally Munden, Liz Hills and BE steward Michael Munden introduced both a BE100+ class and an Intermediate Novice (IN) with a difference so I was interested to chat to him about how this development came about.
Michael Munden’s background is in Law and while he is now retired from this profession, he is heavily involved within the sport of eventing as an organiser, course builder, BE steward and owner. At the moment BE is looking at the strategy of the sport in the background and at the rules of the sport and Michael is involved in looking at this. For Michael, this activity is something which is good for the sport as it is always good to be looking at going forwards.
With his involvement in the sport, Michael was able to last year get the go ahead at Bricky to run a BE100+ class with a difference. The arena test was a 60 x 20, the Show jumping was BE100+ level (1.05) and the cross country was Novice technicality while still staying within 100 dimensions. This development came about following a conversation with Mark Phillips who had previously discussed in an article that he felt there was a need for a 1.05 level to help bridge the gap particularly between BE100 and Novice which many amateurs seem to struggle to take the next step up at. With his BE Steward’s hat, on Michael agreed that there was a gap and investigated doing something about it. Hence the birth of a true BE100+ test rather than the current BE100+ which does not see the elevated complexity in the cross country so has its shortcomings. Last year the decision was taken in July 2014 to add this ‘true’ BE100+ so this year there has been more time to develop the concept especially with the cross country.
Last year Jo Retallack rode both the 100+ and BE100 cross country courses and commented to Michael that the 100+ despite being the same size as the BE100 came up quicker and was a busier test with the increased technicality and this is exactly what Michael was hoping for. The BE100+ this year will still be BE100 dimensions but there has been increased use of the terrain to make it a stronger test than the BE100. The BE100+ is an ideal preparation event for riders looking to go to Aldon BE100 Three Day in October as the cross country course at Aldon follows a similar feel, being BE100 dimensions with a Novice technicality.
To help him with the BE100+ concept Michael has had several experienced local riders like Tim Cheffings walk the course to make sure he has got the intensity and the level of questions right for riders of all levels. As Michael commented ‘you can make a BE90 almost unrideable if you have high levels of intensity. It’s not just about the height, in course design.’
As well as the BE100+, Michael has also designed a true Intermediate Novice. Rather than just the dressage and the show jumping being of Intermediate standard, the cross country has been elevated so that it is Novice dimensions with Intermediate technicality. It is designed to be the perfect prep run for Aldon 1*. Michael even has permission to use the FEI 1* dressage test which will be used at Aldon for his Intermediate Novice instead of the traditional Intermediate test which is normally used.
Michael feels there is a massive opportunity with the IN. ‘There are horses looking for an easier life but still need a challenge below Intermediate, riders who want a stepping stone to Intermediate and those who want a bit of confidence boosting fun.’ If this concept fills a section then Michael will be really happy.
As an event, Bricky is in Dorset and will often struggle to get the numbers it deserves and thus they look at doing things a bit differently. In the past this used to be a tough cross country course at BE100 level with alternatives at the more tricky fences (log jumps into water for instance), and more recently it has done all its dressage tests as long arena tests. This gives riders the chance to try something different and ride eventing tests that they might not have yet done. William Fox Pitt came to Bricky last year and commented to Michael that despite it being a 2009 dressage test he had never ridden the Novice long arena test before.
Last year for the first time Michael put in an owners tent which provided tea, coffee and refreshments for owners and owner riders. Michael recently came back from Hopetoun where he said the owner’s tent was excellent and that it should not be just at big events that there are owner’s tents. They are a great place for an owner to come and sit, have some refreshments and have a chat. Owners are fundamental to the sport and the owner’s tent does not really cost the event anything with just the cost of refreshments. It does not tend to be abused and yet adds something to the day.
Bricky makes a considerable effort with prizes. The prizes in kind go down to 10th place so everybody gets something more than just a rosette. Michael has decided to go for food as he thinks it’s a bit of fun and it’s a good angle. The event often buys the food at cost so competitors prizes are actually worth more than the guidelines laid out by BE for value. The Novice and the Intermediate Novice get the upper levels of prize money.
Previously Michael has had other ideas like the South West challenge where riders from Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall could compete in their own section to win some amazing prizes though sadly this never took off as much as it deserved to.
Bricky is certainly not a profitable exercise for its organiser but because the land is owned by Michael and most of the course design and building is done by him that he is able to keep the costs down and able to trial things like the BE100+ and IN having their own unique cross country courses.
Riders have been crying out for these opportunities so it’s really great to see these things come to fruition. Michael finished up by telling me that if any rider was undecided about what to do or whether to come to Bricky then to please contact him or come down and have a look. Ultimately these things are here to help riders have fun and grow in confidence so he is more than happy to help.