Report from the Zoom evening 4*/ 5* Eventing

What another fabulous F&I Zoom meeting on Wednesday 1st March. 4*/ 5* Eventing was the topic, with David Doel and Kylie Roddy speaking from a rider’s viewpoint and joined by Nick Turner and Eric Smiley from a coaching perspective.

Forty-five F&I members registered for this informative and interesting discussion, covering a range of topics aimed at the 4*/5* horses and riders.

Picking your event abroad or at home? David feels that the sport is heading towards shorter courses, and a lot of the events abroad have fewer competitors, therefore it is easier to come 2nd or 3rd in Belgium or Holland than 30th or 40th in England, and for some owners this was an important point to consider. However both riders felt that open parkland events and how to find a stride from a long way out, getting ready for the “Big B’s” Badminton and Burghley, was also an important factor to consider.

The other “B’s” were added to the discussion – Bicton, Blenheim, Bramham, Blair Castle – as well as the influence of the course designers, and their own particular style, which we should all take into account for our horses. Kylie added Chatsworth 4* to the discussion, because this event will tell you if you have a serious horse.

One of the questions from Nick to both riders was “How to prepare, when to start planning, and what do we change?” Both David and Kylie started with reflection on what had worked and what had not, for each individual horse, giving us lucky F&I members the opportunity to hear how they manage each horse according to their needs. The ability to read your horse, know your horse and work with your horse, became very apparent in this part of the discussion, from both riders.

Eric discussed a 4* horse going onto 5* and thinks the rider’s thought process of how you plan the development of the 5* horse is important. There was a view that some 5* events abroad are not softer than at home, but they have a different feel to them, and can help the rider gain the experience the horse may need? You never know if you have a 5* horse until fence 4 at Badminton – and find out whether they enjoy it – and, by the way, do not underestimate Burghley with its undulating ground! At the end of the season, a lot of riders have run out of horses by then and the less experienced combinations may get in?

5* courses very seldom have any let up fences, so 5* horses have to pick themselves up and get on with it, mentally and physically, which is tiring for both horse and rider.

Eric shared these words of wisdom, in every competition from grassroots to international level there are three categories of riders:
Those that are happy to be there, just got there.
Those that wish to complete the competition, regardless.
Those that are there to compete.

Group two are the most worrying of competitors as the course builder will still be building to the level required for that particular event. Burghley would be one example.

One question was “How do you riders feel about the influence of the dressage and where the sport is going?” This caused much discussion, and one thought was, is the Dressage keeping up with the horses or are the horses keeping up with the Dressage? Discussion was had on collected canter, and are we training to the eight-foot stride versus the twelve-foot stride, so be careful not to destroy your jumping stride in training for that collected canter, was one rider’s thought.

Both riders use long term, medium, and short term goals as part of their planning. For the new season, plan the competitions you are aiming for and work backwards, remember plans can change within a week. It has to be quite a multi-layer, dynamic process.

Kylie spoke about the importance of the rider’s fitness and core strength and has been working on this over the winter, ready for the 2023 season. Great videos!

David mentioned that he had become aware that for galloping on grass, the recovery period for the heart rate is quicker, than if using the all-weather gallops.

So many top tips, but the last one to leave you with is: How do you prepare in the last week or two before a big event? “20% fresh both you and your horse, physically and mentally, not 10% over-tired!

A huge thanks to the honesty and openness of David and Kylie in discussing their highs and lows with us, and to Nick and Eric for their chairing and contribution, and to F&I for another fabulous evening.

From all the F&I members – Wishing you all the best for your 2023 season, and thank you!

Report by Sue Charters