Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Is 'Schooling In Public' Justified For WEG Preparation?

In 3 out of every 4 years there is a big team championship (Olympics, WEG, Europeans [or other continentals]) run usually in September, and during the months July and August you will see a flurry of "Withdrawn After Dressage" or "Withdrawn After Showjumping" for the short listed horses in the bigger ticketed one and three day events. The reason for these withdrawals is "Schooling in Public", where shortlisted team contenders will practice the softer phases in public to give their horses a little more 'big stadium time'.

The New Zealand WEG 2010 short-listers convened yesterday at Hunters Equestrian Centre for a training session, joined by a couple of Aussie short-listers, where they practiced 4* tests that were videoed and then reviewed. Short listed horses have experienced plenty of stadium time on their rise to the top, so the type of training that the NZL team and others perform out of the public gaze seems to me a very suitable type of schooling for team preparation and selection at this late stage.

The reason for posing this question is that I see a few potential issues with this practice. 'Schooling in Public' in horseracing is banned, predominantly because it would cause havoc with betting markets if allowed, so eventing would struggle to attract any real betting income. But more importantly, the events that are used for this training are almost exclusively the bigger 3 star events where the public are charged for entry, so it can be rather disappointing to watch a horse trials where 3 of the top 5 contenders withdraw before cross country (see Gatcombe results).

Incidently, the fact that both Inonothing & Happy Times were withdrawn after show jumping at Gatcombe when they were both in the top 5 to me suggests they have both been given 'the nod' for WEG 2010.

This time of year does of course provide good reason not to run cross country - hard ground, so Hartpury this coming weekend is going to be very interesting indeed, particularly because of the rain we've had and the entries. The CCI*** event is running no less than 15 WEG2010 short listed horses, I wonder if this has prevented other riders from getting an entry (another issue with schooling in public), after all any event can only run so many horses at this level. Badminton for example runs a wait list and Mark Todd only narrowly made Badminton this year after Aaron Miller withdrew Stormstay.

Justified or not, what a nightmare for event organisers trying to promote their events, and disappointing for spectators expecting to see top class action. Personally I'd like to see a change in the rules to prevent 'schooling in public' at 3 & 4 star level, but assisting riders by perhaps allowing HC entry.

I do hope Hartpury turns out to be a 'pipe opener' for the WEG short-listers, however there are also a number of entries for Highclere out of this field.


  1. Interesting points.
    I think this is a time to really polish up the dressage for a lot of the WEG contenders.
    Schooling at home is one thing but putting it together in a competition atmosphere is a great way of making sure it all flows?

    Is is justified?
    I think to some extent it may ease the minds of the riders/selectors but then again most short listed combinations will have already proved themselves at 3DEs over the past months/year.

    Also in regard to the large number of entries at Hartpury, I think some may have double entered e.g. Gatcombe and Hartpury, so they could go to Gatcombe knowing they would still get a run the following weekend if ground conditions weren't ideal/or they performed poor tests/sj rounds.

  2. Thanks Jeremy,

    I agree with you regarding double entries, often happens, even at the start of the season.

  3. The other thing to mention on this subject is that the British team are combined training at Blenheim just before heading off. But this is outside of the CCI & CIC classes, so the best of both worlds really.