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Eventing in Terrible Weather, Abandonments and Soldiering On

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 08.40.51

The muddy lorry park at Borde Hill. Photo by kind permission of Ann Bone.

After a recent competition was abandoned due to very heavy rainfall, it occurred to me, reading the accusatory comments on social media, that many riders seem to be a bit ill-informed, and frustration and blame sometimes get directed towards the wrong people.
The Organiser and their team have been working for many months to set up the event, and the last thing they need are recriminations at the already gutting point of cancellation or abandonment!

On the other hand, Borde Hill soldiered on last weekend in the teeth of horrid weather (as did Tweseldown, for example, last year) and both events received criticism on social media for NOT cancelling, because many competitors withdrew due to the muddy conditions.

It is never solely up to the venue/organiser to cancel, or not; the decision is made by the BE Officials, based on whether the paramedics and horse ambulances can definitely get safely and quickly to EVERY fence on the XC.

So, although other areas may be fine, and you might well look at the ground in the lorry park, or the dressage or show-jumping arenas, and think it could easily have run, full vehicular accessibility to the entire xc is the (potentially quite literally) vital rule to which they have to stick.

To be honest I think we should all be very glad that they are so rigorous. A worst-case scenario fall, plus a bogged-down ambulance (horse or human), just doesn’t bear thinking about.

When the XC stays accessible, I personally think it’s great that events carry on. Horses need to learn to cope with all conditions. (Badminton this year proved that! Those who had run at Bicton in deep going were glad of the practice they’d had.) Of course if someone’s horse is green, really needs a very confidence-giving run, or particularly hates deep going, that’s a very different matter, and I’d withdraw that one just as I’d withdraw one that hates firm ground. But there are those which will cope fine with it, and they shouldn’t be denied their run.

Please spare a thought for the Organiser (and/or Land Owner) in these cases too. The damage done by lorries can be shocking. It cost £40k, 20 years ago (!!!) to level out a particular event’s lorry park field, because the 2’+ deep ruts left after towing multiple horseboxes in and out of the lorry park (as deep as their axles sometimes) had to be remedied by JCBs, and took weeks. Tractor and rollers had no effect. It’s very difficult to break even on an event after that sort of huge unforeseen cost.

Let’s all hope for better weather for the rest of the season, and no more days enduring deep mud and driving rain!


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  • Agree with this, I don’t think BH should have cancelled. Different weather conditions suit different horses & they should all get the chance to run. If you don’t think it is right for your horse, then withdraw. This applies to bone hard going as well as deep sloppy ground!

  • I agree with Sue that events like BH should continue in bad weather if they can. My horse likes wet going and we’ve have had good placings getting round the course (with a rubbish dressage mark) when the rest of the field have withdrawn from the jumping!

  • Tricky one, but I do think that social media fuels the fire as such on this one. Thinking specifically about Tweseldown and Oasby where pictures were posted that showed the worse of the conditions and when you are sat at home the day before an event it can be very very off putting!!!!

  • Well said! Damned if they do; and damned if they don’t. Social media is however very useful to inform when events are cancelled rather than driving 3 hours to find out!

    Agree BH made the right call. Hope they can recoup the ground before August.

  • I wholeheartedly agree! I was disgusted to read some of the comments made after last weekend’s abandonment.
    Some riders seem to think that organisers should have a crystal ball and predict the weather weeks in advance. After all the hard work that goes into getting an event running it is heartbreaking to have to cancel.
    The effort that goes into getting an event running should NEVER be under estimated!
    Riders should be VERY VERY grateful to all the organisers, volunteers, etc. who give so freely of their time to help you enjoy our wonderful sport!

    • I too wholeheartedly agree with the article and Mike’s comments. Some competitors simply do not realise or appreciate the weeks of work and cost that goes into preparing for an event and how devasting it is to put all that effort in and then have the hard decision made not to run an event. It’s not just the weeks of preparation but the time spent after in trying to put right the damage caused to the ground for the Landowner who without them we wouldn’t be able to run these events.

  • Good article … I hate seeing organisers/landowners blamed in the aftermath of an event, and particularly when the land has been trashed like Borde Hill was yesterday. Personally I probably wouldn’t have run a green horse in those conditions, but my experienced horse jumped clear in the XC with just a pole in the SJ and although it was more difficult, that’s what eventing is about. In fact I think it is surprising just how well horses do cope in muddy conditions … much better than I anticipated.

    The whole place was muddy, even inside the secretary’s tent so I would like to say thank you to everyone involved in running Borde Hill, your huge efforts are greatly appreciated!