Dave Ballard with Course Designer Richard Jeffery
We are at Week 6 of WEF and we’re half way home. This is the Hunter Classic week and they have taken up residence in the International Ring, so we will be competing at the dressage stadium and on the derby field this week. One of the great things about the winter series in Wellington is the ability to use such a variety of jumping surfaces. We reported two weeks ago that the derby field was in excellent shape and this has not changed and it will host several events including the U25 series, the 1.50m Classic and the national grand prix.
The stadium will host the WEF series #6 and the CSI 3* grand prix on Friday night which is tonight and the subject of our walk. As this is the off week for many of the top horses and we have moved back to the 3* rating we will see many of the top riders using their younger or second string horses. Several of the top riders will be in Ocala for the Nations Cup which was just completed a few hours ago with Ireland taking the top spot with the USA in second and Canada in third. The course designer from Brazil had a moment or two of nerves after the first rotation of riders but everything worked out and her course worked perfectly with great results.
There are several things that should be addressed about the event tonight and we will begin with a few facts.
This is a 3* FEI event and will be held in the stadium and really should be considered an indoor sized surface. Richard Jeffery (GBR) is the Course Designer and has had this ring for a few years now and is well acquainted with the ins and outs. Because the ends of this ring are so round and not square the course can sustain more constant flow and give the rider the ability to maintain more pace than a ring with square ends. The specifications for this class say that the speed will be 375m/m and regardless of the round ends and the size of the ring, this is a very difficult speed to maintain for this stadium.
Richard and his Saturday Night course
The course tonight will have 13 numbered jumps with 16 efforts. The course will, without question, be busy and technical. These facts alone will make the time allowed a factor. Next question will be to build a 3* course that reflects the rules set down for the course designer by the FEI. When we have completed the walk you will see that the jumps are set for a strong course. I have always maintained that when the course uses the heights and widths and technicality of a strong course, that the riders should be given the time to give their mounts a fair opportunity to jump the obstacles. I have also maintained my view that over the last 10 years the time allowed has used been as a weapon in competitions, and that they have on many occasions, suffered from its extreme use. As one of the best course designers in the world, Richard Jeffery has never had the reputation as a course designer who uses extreme TA’s as a weapon in his course design. To arrive at the distance to calculate the TA one can use the computer and or the wheel and usually will be done in the company of the jury, the assistant CD (if there is one) or the technical delegate (FEI appointed but not needed in a 3*)or venue selected technical advisors.
The wheel can be done together or separately. When all the wheels are completed there is a meeting and the TA is agreed upon. As we all know the TA can be changed after or before 3 competitors have completed the course without a refusal. When the TA is changed there has been an agreement between the course designer, technical advisor and the president of the jury. When it is the course designer’s name at the bottom of the page and the course and all of the tests is the responsibility of the course designer, he should have the final say. You may see that I am going somewhere with this commentary and we will arrive there at the end of the walk. So let’s begin the walk.
As stated earlier there are 13 numbered jumps 16 efforts and the TA is set at 80 seconds and will not be changed. 44 are entered in the class and 44 will compete. In the course we will see 1 triple combination, a double, a plank oxer, a skinny vertical, 2 liverpools with water and made to appear in ground. There will be no wall, no triple bar. The weather is great and there is a very good crowd on hand. They were a little late arriving but the VIP tent was full from the beginning.
#1 vertical 1.50m or 5ft. The sailboat was cast upon the rocks 4 times and saw 1 refusal.
#2 oxer 1.48/1.60 or 4.11/5.3ft comes on a long gallop on the right rein and tumbled to the floor of the arena 6 times.
#3 vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft short white poles coming from #2 in a straight line on a distance of 21.3m or 70ft. We saw 3 mistakes here.
#4 oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes on the continuing straight line from #3 on a distance of 19.20m or 63ft. One of the least faulted jumps tonight and found the sand 2 times.
#5 vertical 1.52m or 5.1ft comes from #4 on the left rein. This all black hanging gate with black poles fell into the darkness only 1 time.
#6a oxer Liverpool 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3ft comes from #5 in a straight line on a distance of 21.9m or 72ft. The darker shade of the material and the Liverpool did the job here and splashed down 14 times
#6b vertical 1.52m or 5.1ft comes from #6a with a distance of 7.80m or 25.6ft and fell from the top cups 4 times.
#7 skinny oxer 1.55/1.00m or 5.1/3.3ft comes on the bending left rein on a distance of 29.3m or 96ft and was faulted on 6 occasions.
#8 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #7 on the continuing left rein and is the widest oxer on the course and we saw 8 rails and 1 refusal at this jump.
#9 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #8 on the right rein no given distance and is one of the required 1.60 verticals. This tall vertical saw 1 refusal and fall and the poles were pushed to the ground 2 times.
#10 oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft on the right rein away from the in-gate and kissed mother earth 7 times.
#11 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.4ft comes on a strong gallop of 30.4m or 100ft with a small bend on the right rein away from #10. With the plank on top there was only 1 touchdown here.
#12a vertical 1.52m or 5.1ft comes on the right rein and is the beginning of the end for many tonight. This vertical was faulted 10 times.
#12b oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.3ft comes from #12a on a distance of 7.90m or 26ft and fell from grace 10 times.
#12c vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from #12b on a distance of 8.20m or 27ft and at this point we had the second most difficult test of the night with 14 rails, 2 refusals one refusal resulting in a fall and elimination.
#13 closed Liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #12c in a straight line on a distance of 19.20m or 63ft and as the final fence in the first round got wet on 6 occasions.
The final tally of the first round happened this way. There were four clean, five rounds of 4 faults, five rounds of 5 faults, five with 8 faults and five with 9 faults. There were five vw’s, four refusals and there were two falls. There were no reports of injury due to the falls. My usual count of the material gives us 56 poles, 7 planks, 2 liverpools that were set in the sand in the best possible way and there were three fillers.
I am going to get some grief for the next bit, but it is a subject that over the years, I have spoken about and feel very strong about. The time allowed tonight should have been changed. There is nothing in the rules of a 3* class that says that the TA has to be very aggressive. The speed for the class tonight was 375m/m and that in and of itself is difficult enough in this ring. Allowances were made for this, but then why require the inside turns that negate the allowances made for the size of the ring?
Many rounds that resulted in rails tonight were caused by the need to be within the Time Allowed and not the actual jumping tests which were on the strong side to begin with. With this week being the off week, it gave some riders and horses the chance to move up and compete at a higher level and for more prize money. After the first 3 rounds with no clean and none within the TA, changing the Time Allowed by 2 or even 3 seconds (2 would have been my choice), would have been the thing to do. Again, remember, when I write these columns, it’s after the class is complete and hindsight in my case is 20/20. It’s easy after a football game to say the coach should have called this play, or the quarterback shouldn’t have thrown to the guy in double coverage.
Keep in mind, there is also the seeding factor of the FEI ranking classes that gives us the fewest points going first followed by the next third and the final third with the most points going at the end of the order. This may give thoughts about the first three riders not being experienced enough to ride TA properly and that they don’t give you an accurate picture. Tonight the first three rides produced rounds of 10, 9 and 9 faults. I am not a judge and was not the CD and even if there was not full agreement about changing the TA, the decision was made not to change it. I am not in agreement. The final results could have given us more clean and if not, so be it. But if the results of the competitors at the other end of the class could have been more positive with a couple of seconds more then that is what I am talking about. That is the end of the $130,000 CSI 3* grand prix walk and the end of WEF 6.
Congrats to our winner tonight, a new name in the Wellington winner’s circle, Brazil’s Pedro Muylaert and Prince Royal Z MFS (pictured here on Colorado)
Next week back in the International Ring and back to the 5* ranking and another course walk.
I am Dave Ballard.