I strongly considered naming this Tale from The BadEventer………
So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye
But I didn’t.
If you’re an eventer you’ve probably heard something about the rule change proposal that the USEA Board of Governors recently voted to send to the USEF for approval. If you haven’t taken a look, it can be read here.
This rule has the best intentions. There is unbelievably bad riding going on out there and something needs to change. Here are some thoughts on the subject from LandSafe owner Danny Warrington.
If you haven’t read the rule proposal here are the highlights.
Currently, in order to compete at Preliminary the rider needs to have successfully completed 4 training level events. By “successfully completed” you must obtain a minimum eligibility requirement or MER where you score less than 50 in dressage, jump clear on cross country without too much time and have 4 or fewer rails in show jumping.
Let me point out right here that if you’re scraping by at this “minimum”, it is not exactly a quality performance.
You can definitely obtain this MER at training level in a
terrifying less than ideal manner.
So the rider has to have done 4 training level events, but the horse has no requirements prior to competing at preliminary.
This means that currently a rider that has completed 4 training level events with MERs, that has NEVER competed at preliminary, can buy a horse and compete at preliminary at their first event together.
Yes – really.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s a really bad idea.
If you’re The Jungernator
and you buy a new top notch horse and decide your first trip out together will be at preliminary no one is going to give that a second thought.
I’ve written a lot of BadEventer Tales about move ups. Here’s one in particular I’ve been thinking about this week. You can read it later, but the synopsis is that I bought SpiderWoman and we did 1 Novice, 1 training, 1 prelim, and 1 2* in that order.
Soooooo. Back to RuleGate.
This is going to be a little complicated so hopefully you can hang in there with me.
The current rule is that in order to compete at preliminary the rider but not the horse needs 4 MERs at training level.
The rule change proposal sets a tiered “license” and changes these requirements. Licensed A riders who have 25 MERs at Intermediate follow the current rules and carry on like nothing changes.
I’m going to point out that, at least from the comments I’ve seen, the most vocal supporters of this rule on social media are these riders. Riders that this rule will literally not affect. And yes, I’m sure they all want to improve safety of the sport, but it’s a little different when it won’t change your goals or plans.
Unlicensed riders would now need 8, yes 8 training level MERs, WITH THE SAME HORSE before they can go preliminary. This would move the current goal post from 4 MERs with any horse to 8 MERs with the same horse.
That’s a pretty significant change.
Then there are B licensed riders. I’m in that category. To be a “B” you need 25 MERs at preliminary.
A B rider will now need 6 training level MERs WITH THE SAME HORSE to compete at preliminary.
Let me repeat that. A rider who has never gone Preliminary needs 8 training level MER‘s with the same horse to move that horse up to preliminary. But a rider who has 25 MERs at Preliminary, and mind you 25 MERs realistically represents several years of experience at the level, this rider still needs 6 MERs at training level to move a new horse up.
I’m not really sure which way to look at this. But if the very experienced rider at the level who has not only competed at preliminary at least 25 times but has run 25 clear cross country rounds at preliminary still needs 6 training level goes before they can move a new horse up, then the inexperienced rider who has never gone preliminary probably needs more than eight.
In order to explain my stance on RuleGate I’m going to waver from my usual, “Look how bad I am at eventing” Tale for several moments.
I’m going to list all my MERs in the past decade at Training level through 3*. This does not count any of the events I ran in my teens and 20s) And this also does not count the clear runs at preliminary with the WonderPony where he stormed around cross country like the amazing cross country horse he was, but had 5 or more rails in show jumping.
Let me point out for a moment that he ran 76 recognized events through Intermediate and NEVER HAD A SINGLE XC JUMP PENALTY. But several of my clear preliminary rounds at XC did not earn MERs due to his lackadaisical show jumping technique. He’s one of those horses the new 5 rails = elimination rule would definitely have affected. But I’m not talking about that particular rule today!
Are you ready for the BadEventer MERs?
53 Training level MERs with 13 different horses.
When I counted them I had a hard time myself believing it was really 53.
And yes, I’m going to show them to you.
Of course for those 53 MERs at training level there were many more at Novice and Beginner Novice as well. And in between were all those BadEventer Tales where it didn’t quite go to plan and didn’t earn a MER.
2 MERs at Modified on 2 horses.
35 MERs at Preliminary on 7 horses
Five 2*s on 4 different horses.
Four Intermediates on 2 horses
and Three 3*s on 2 horses.
To recap that’s
53 Training level MERs
2 Modified MERs
41 MERs at Preliminary & 2* and
7 MERs at Intermediate and 3*.
On 13 different horses.
With the new rule proposal a rider who has never competed at preliminary needs 8 training level events WITH THE SAME HORSE to compete at preliminary. While a rider like me who has literally poured my heart, soul and retirement account into this sport will be required to do 6.
I’m not going to lie. This feels like getting kicked in the teeth. After competing at preliminary and above 70+ times on 7 different horses, I’ll need 2 less training level runs than someone who has NEVER competed at the level? Does that make even a tiny bit of sense?
And let me say this. It’s ENTIRELY possible if I buy a new upper level horse that I’ll need several runs at the lower levels. It’s entirely possible I’ll need MORE than 6!
And I will do however many we need whether it’s 6 or 20.
But it’s also entirely possible that I won’t need 6 and the “mandatory” check-the-box MERs will just create wear and tear on an experienced horse and my checkbook. This is where my significant experience at the level on so many horses should be WORTH something .
I’ve earned the street credit.
Sometimes the hard way,
to know how many runs I’ll need before moving up.
When I bought SpiderWoman, she had done 17 Intermediates or 3*s. We did one training, one prelim, and our next event after that was a 2* where we finished 9th out of 47.
Let me repeat that. I bought an experienced 3 * horse. I had already competed 4 horses through preliminary & 1 through 3*. We did ONE training level, ONE preliminary and then placed top ten out of 47 in a 2*. We then moved to to 3* successfully & safely.
Consistent quality performance. This was the 5th horse I’d competed at preliminary.
I knew the ropes.
But with the rule change proposal, that wouldn’t have happened because I would have spent the entire season at training level.
And take note, for the 7 horses I moved up to preliminary there were 6 others that I NEVER moved up past training level. Not to mention the horses than never competed above Novice! This interesting kiddo, (remember Baby Seabiscuit?) never made it past Beginner Novice!
I knew those 6 weren’t going to make it successfully & safely at that level. This is as much about (if not more about) knowing when NOT to move up.
To be clear, I’m 100% in favor of strengthening the requirements for first timers.
But after spending so much time,
on this sport……
For all my hard earned experience to be so dismissed
this just feels……..
Reminder. This isn’t a rule yet. Be sure to let the USEF know your thoughts on it.