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FEI Dressage and Safe Cross Country %.

I am an avid Eventing Radio Show fan. They discuss interesting topics and have some great conversations and for me it’s a great way of breaking up the monotony of my drive to work once a week. This week, Sam Watson appeared along with hosts Joe Meyer and Max Corcoran. Sam discussed Burghley dressage which was discussed during an Equiratings blog that we shared on the E-Venting Facebook page. Along with this topic were several other fascinating topics.

Sam Watson & Horseware Lukeswell

Sam Watson & Horseware Lukeswell

Firstly Sam discussed the co-efficient factor on FEI tests. The difference between combinations scoring all 7s across the board gave them a score of 45 and someone scoring all 8s across the board gave them 30 which meant dressage had a massive bearing on the final results. Sam discussed that at Somerford recently in the 1* that a 52 dressage would have you in 87th place. Sam proposed that at 1 and 2* level the co-efficient should be left off or only multiplied by 0.5 because it would make the dressage fairer especially for young horses who were going to be potential 4* horses who moved well enough but were not dressage horses who had been trained to jump. Sam Watson used the example of the best eventing horse in the world – Sam. Sam in his first few 1* scored in the region of 51-53 in the dressage and if you looked at him you would never think his dressage would cut it at the higher levels. In fact his dressage has got better and he rarely scores out of the 30s at 3* and 4* thanks to good training. Combine that with him being a wonderful jumper and you have the ultimate event horse.

If you look at Le Lion 1* from last year with the 6yo young horses, and these are the best in Europe. A score of 50 would place you in 4th at the completion of the event. At Somerford a finishing score of 50 in the 1* would see you placed 26th. It would certainly be an interesting experiment to see a 1* run without the co-efficient and see what it did to results especially as the jumping at 1 or 2* is not as influential as it is at 3 and 4*. It would certainly be helpful for riders with looking at the longer term and investing in blood horses not to be so penalised against ‘dressage’ horses whose future will not be 3* or 4*.

The second point Sam Watson bought up was that of the Equiratings Quality Index. This is a statistical look at results where they rate the chances of a combinations success on cross country. The facts are perhaps stark. Out of the bottom 10 rated on quality cross country performance only one got round. Of the bottom seven which is 10% of the field, two had horse falls out of the five horse falls of the day. This means 40% of all the horse falls came from the bottom 10%. One of these horse falls just rerouted to Blenheim. Should this have been allowed,  only 4 days after a heavy horse fall?

This to me is some pretty scary information and Sam Watson raised the point that are these riders doing

One of the best cross country riders

One of the best cross country riders

enough to improve their cross country and secondly should these riders have been allowed to enter. If you look at one of the entrants, it’s some pretty scary stuff on paper. Their horse is still in Intermediate points and out of fifteen attempts at 3* they have only completed the cross country without jumping penalties three times. This is a 20% chance of getting round cross country clear at the level below Burghley. As Sam Watson pointed out we should not be looking at making fences smaller or profiles softer. If you are not good enough, you should not be allowed to compete and maybe people would focus on cross country more.

This isn’t to say that inexperience at the level should be considered an issue as long as previous cross country form is good, as demonstrated by two riders (one first timer and one with one previous 4* completion), who both finished in the top half at Burghley. Their preceding runs had excellent cross country results, with both trending at over 80% clear at 3* and 4* level, and this was borne out at Burghley.

This is an interesting discussion in so many ways as I often think riders do not take enough responsibility for their decisions. As a watcher on forums, people often seem to be in denial to themselves about their own competency and their needs to be a joined up approach (which I appreciate is hard!) between riders, trainers and governing bodies to make sure that people open their eyes and get real about the inherent dangers in this sport.

I have just checked my favourite FEI document – that of yellow cards and interestingly there are no yellow cards for either Rio or Burghley. For me this has to be a good thing with the eyes of the world upon the sport. Pascal Leroy received a yellow card at Haras du Pin for allowing a child without a hat to ride Minos De Petra in the stable. Looking at the results Pascal withdrew after dressage of a 53 so it does not look like the child’s schooling helped.


About the author


An amateur rider who produces all her own horses. I have competed at novice level and sadly never got further due to bad luck with horses but I am still ambitious to achieve a lot more. I have a riding qualification in UKCC2 and a diploma in NLP. Sports science and particularly the mental game fascinates me. For a day job I work for a large multinational brand.