Saturday, 23 August 2008

Great British Weather

Meanwhile back home, Highclere Horse Trials has been cancelled. Bugger - I was really looking forward to brightening up my blog with a few recent photos (and highclere is such a picturesque setting).

Note to Self: always have a back-up entry.

Post Mortum Result - Inconclusive!

Predictably, one week on, and everyone is blaming everyone else for the the much criticised Hong Kong XC event. It's all proving inconclusive.

What is conclusive however is nobody trained for such an event, some were more prepared than others for the conditions, there are too many "old boys" wearing too many hats in this sport (official, trainer, course designer, event organiser, policy maker, etc, etc, etc)

Oh well! [sigh deeply] Let's take up Modern Pentathlon.........

Modern Pentathalon - On ya Garde!

Like most of the sports loving world I've got completely caught up in 'Olympic Fever'. So what's this modern pentathlon all about? 

Before these olympics I have to confess to being something of layman when it comes to the pentathlon, I knew it covered 5 events (the clue was in the name!), but I didn't really understand how the competition was organised. I have the BBC to thank for educating me on this bizarre event. 

Here's a sport that really could be one of the most exciting of the whole games. You shoot a gun, wave a sword, swim, ride a horse, and run a few miles - a true gladiatorial test! But, and here's what I find completely bizarre, competitors don't ride their own horse, they draw lots to ride horses they've never sat on before, and judging by the horses provided this can be a ropey old lot (see BBC Comic Pentathlon video). 

Imagine what Usain Bolt would say if he was told he'd be wearing a pair of hand-me-down plimsoles to run the 100 Metres

What a great event so poorly implemented, it doesn't do itself any favours by giving the media such ammunition to ridicule the sport. 

What a great event, and Team GB picked up another Silver - hurrah!


Friday, 15 August 2008

More Lessons to learn

What more can we learn from further fatalities out on the cross country course? Without the opportunity to review incidents any analysis of these tragedies is purely subjective and inconclusive.  We can undoubtedly learn much more from these incidents given the opportunity and tools to do so.

Horseracing learnt these lessons a long time time ago, albeit for other reasons (race fixing). Every horse race is recorded and almost instantly reviewable. This gives the racing authorities a vast library of enormous value that produces a variety of benefits and income opportunities. 

But videoing a horse race is so much easier than eventing - I hear you cry. Yes, you've only got to speak to the BBC to discover just how challenging TV coverage of eventing is to do well, only Golf comes a close second. There are pro's and con's for both, but coverage of eventing (at all levels) can be cost neutral and even cash generating long term. 

Over the past few years we have seen the emergence of video services at everyday events across the country. I, for one, do not leave an event that has been covered with buying a copy of my showjumping and cross country round (admittedly for posterity reasons, as much as for the opportunity to review my mistakes and improve), and there is always a que of people at the stand doing exactly the same. (this only scratches the surface of the revenue potential when you see how other video libraries are generating revenues).

I'm convinced the reasons this has never been seriously considered is more to do with lack of commercial imperative rather than commercial acumen, and this is a major contributor to so many short comings of the sport.  Some of the biggest outdoor sporting events are horse trials, generating millions in revenue, and many more events capable of increasing their ticketed attendance, yet the governing body has no "serious" commercial function.

Sometime ago there was talk of running a commercial arm separately from the sports arm, but this came to nothing - pity!

I'm not suggesting our sport is ever going to be as rich as football, but without a 'serious' commercial imperative to generate revenues, it'll always be an amateur sport with little more than a passionate membership organisation and a small but passionate following. 

My point here is we need more money in the sport for a variety of projects and initatives (like safety), and minor sponsorships just doesn't scratch the surface. We're also sitting on some very valuable assets and opportunities, it just needs someone with a little creativity and balls to get on and exploit it.  More fresh blood needed - its time to get serious!

tick tock 2012

For eventing the clock has already starting ticking for the next olympics, our own - hurrah! No doubt postmortems of the HK event are already underway around dinner tables and on flights back to blighty. And let's face it there's plenty to be learnt. From my own experiences of the HKJC they rarely do things by half, so we will have had plenty of opportunity to pick up good ideas from Hong Kong. There's also plenty to learn from the competition itself, opportunities to benefit from hindsight (the cross country was a real disaster). 

Planning in earnest for 2012 has already begun with the appointment of Tim Hadaway to full time Commander in Chief of the equestrian olympics. Tim is one of those unsung hero types who works hard, and has great skill and enthusiasm for the organisation of events. He's now needs to start building a good team around him without the shackles of 'old school' equestrianists that we have seen running these large scale events over the last 10 years. Time to hire new blood!

If all goes well Britain should be at fever pitch come 2012. The horse & hound will probably go in to melt down!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Marathon Man - Straight out of left field

You wouldn't have put money on it, but an excellent result all the same. Whilst the thought of a German dentist conjures up images of Dustin Hoffman getting root canal therapy in the '70s. Heinrich is a well deserved winner, a true amateur, and proof that with a great horse underneath you anything is possible if you're determined enough! (Thankfully I have a very similar horse, just not the time or determination to reach the top)

Having sat and watched a few other olympic events over the last week (thanks to the BBC - license fees well spent) I can't help but think it's a shame we have such a complicated scoring structure that revolves around penalties rather than positive points. 

Any layperson watching must find the whole thing incredibly confusing when all the other sports have a clear and positive point scoring system. 

Radical and fraught with all sorts of issues it may be [changing the scoring principles] but "just because we done it for the last 50 years doesn't mean we have to continue for the next 50 years". Anyway I leave that for another day......

With so many older horses in this olympics having little or no chance of making it to the next games the coming years are going to be very busy in the 2 & 3 star circuit. Fox-Pitt has a small cavalry down in Dorset and I will be taking a particular interest in Walk The Line (a magnificent looking animal). There are few others with such an armory though, so if you're looking to cash in on a good up and coming horse, now's the time.

Mrs. Cook deserves a mention here after such an impeccable performance this week, and another well deserved medal. 

Ze Germans have certainly recovered their pride and justified their top slot on the eventing mantle, a far cry from the long faces I remember seeing at the Punchestown Europeans, consoling themselves over a glass or two of Leibfrau Milch! And it's always nice to fresh topics of conversation with my Dentist!

Roll on Burghley, Blenheim & Badminton.......

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Beijing Bazzar

The 2008 Olympics has certainly proved challenging on all fronts! If its not injury putting some of the best in the world on the side lines, it's the weather - rain delaying flights, humidity causing havoc with fitness.
And then there's a winding, twisting golf course to negotiate in what must be one of the most impossible optimum times ever, as cross-country supremo, Andrew Nicholson, proved to us yesterday.
Whilst the XC course had some creativity in fence design and placement, I wouldn't call this one of the best Olympic courses of recent years, and of course the venue is a major factor here. I would have preferred to have seen a more flowing course rather than the usual stop-start course we're used to seeing from this design camp.

With less than a handful of horses finishing within
half a minute of the optimum time, it might as well have been run in a ski

Even so we did get to see some exceptional performances. I have to confess I didn't watch everyone go cross country, but for me "man-of-the match" was Tina Cook on Miner's Frolic. What a fabulous young horse - made the whole thing look rather easy. Parkmore Ed, another young horse, also made a very worthy performance.

Also worthy of mention is the young Chinese lad [Alex Hau Tian], who although he was eliminated has truly proved he has a real future in eventing at the top level. I know £1.8M (the amount he raised in sponsorship) buys you a lot of quality horse and training, but it still takes talent to capitalise on all that. Let's hope the press and commentators focus as much on his talent as his schooling. After all, to get to the Olympics in this sport at the tender age of 18 when most don't reach their prime until their mid 30s is a significant achievement, irrespective of of which country you are representing.

With just hours before the showjumping and still a number of nations in contention for a medal there'll be plenty of tactical discussion happening in the restaurants of HK.

Our team are talented enough to maintain their scores and benefit from any bloopers the Aussies or Germans happen to make - Go Brits Go!

I also hope the Swede's do well.....