The continuing deaths of both horses and riders have yet again called into sharp awareness the fact that our sport is in need of help. Jonathon Holling really nailed it in his article in the April 25, 2016 issue of the Chronicle, “When is Enough Enough?”. If you haven’t read it, it’s worth looking up. His point was why let the International Olympic Committee keep forcing changes on us? Just how important is it that Eventing stay in the Olympics? The IOC were the ones who declared that Eventing be modified to its current form. Now they want to have three person teams instead of four in order to fit in more countries, and our own David O’Connor has suggested that if more countries are needed, then these not as well experienced countries will complete better if the Olympic format is changed to a CIC…with show jumping before cross country. That is getting VERY far from our roots and the whole point of the sport, which was to showcase training of a horse who was an obliging partner on the parade ground, willing and able to go long distances across any kind of country in battlefield conditions, and fit and strong enough to do this day after day, as shown in the show jumping phase. As one commenter on a Facebook thread said (I so wish I could remember who!), Eventing is morphing from a test of our training and partnership to an extreme sport. As Jon said, “Now what we are talking about is changing our sport so that once every four years three people per country can go ride in the Olympics. I’m not sure that is worth it. If we’re going to make changes to our sport let’s do it for the right reasons. Let’s do it because we want to make things better for our horses. Let’s do it so that we can make things safer for riders and horses. Let’s do it so that we all can come together as a sport from the bottom to the top and unite as the strong group of passionate horsemen and women that I know we are.” Also, someone is going to have to be brave enough to change this current emphasis on skinnies and corners. Back in my day, Jack LeGoff was the one who directed the building of courses. He would ask for particular questions to be added to the already existing cross country jumps at event venues, and the first few fences always gave the flavor of the whole course. These were designed to warm the horse up, stretch him out, challenge, give back self-confidence if needed, then challenge again. There were rider psych-out fences, and fences which required trust between horse and rider. All of Jack’s upper level courses, however, tested whether a rider had done their homework. I don’t see many truly new questions these days. I remember how those of us in our general area would get together at times and toss around new jump ideas. It was something always in our thoughts. It was the same at the top. I remember being at a party with Neil Ayer not long after we got the news that the 1984 Olympics would be held in Los Angeles and he would be the course builder. He laughingly said that maybe he would hold a contest for the best original idea for a new XC fence. My family took him seriously. Our daughter, Andy, 10 at the time, had a gift for course design, and she, her dad Jack, and I talked about ideas that we came up with. We were on a road trip and she was looking out the window, imagining galloping over the country we were traveling and jumping obstacles, when she said to us, “What about jumping up a waterfall? ´ Whoa! All three of us got excited. I thought about it more and in my mind saw a salmon run…a series of waterfalls. No one had done that before. We took the idea to Neil, and he put it on the course. 11/17/17—Comments on Michael Jung’s XC indoor Derby round in Germany: This is a beautiful round, perfectly executed, with horse and rider in lovely harmony. But I just have to say, I’m not at all fond of this sport. If you watch carefully, you will see the impact of hard landing off the banks onto this footing, as well as off the jump of a large table and the rollback to the next fence. That has to take a huge toll on the horse’s joints. Just saying…. I know that large oxers and open water jumps in show jumping must also have impact, but this mare is in a Cross Country balance, not a show jumping balance, and Cross Country was meant to be run on natural footing. You can see her momentum being stopped for a microsecond by impact, whereas I don’t see this with the show jumpers. My inner red flags are waving all over the place. Yes, this particular sport is great for spectators, and the purses are large. However, it is one more reason to be tempted not to give the horses a full season off to recover from the rigors of the three seasons they have already been competing. Maybe, just maybe, the event riders will keep dedicated horses for this sport and not use their regular Event horses…or maybe they will figure out that artificial footings are not the best. It does take a different mindset on the horse’s part. In real Eventing, they learn to jump three totally different ways…they brush through the top of steeplechase type fences, jump fast but economically over solid jumps, and then adopt a different posture and balance to clear the show jumps. The Derby is a blend of Show Jumping and Cross Country in a setting typically reserved only for Show Jumping. And believe me, horses know the difference between the phases. Here in 2020, leading up to a Olympic year in 2021, are we going to listen to the folks who are out to make money and change the sport to suit themselves and the crowds who come to watch? Or are we going to listen to our horses and return to a more natural base for our sport….