There are recaps on virtually every eventing-related blog and website, so I’m just here to share a few observations I had as a spectator, with no special credentials, sitting way up high in the stadium over the last two days. These are really just some sporadic thoughts and I’m certain that I won’t hit everything, but if there is anything that I miss or anything you have specific questions about, please feel free to comment here or reach out to me on Instagram and I’d love to chat with you about my favorite topic!
Well, the first major change of the event is quite obvious: the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event is no more! This year is the first time the event has run with a new title sponsor. Fortunately Land Rover stepped up and the event has become the Land Rover Kentucky 3-Day Event! I admittedly haven’t noticed any huge differences in the running of the event, at least over the dressage phase. Mostly I think a lot of us are just not quite sure what to call it. “Rolex” was short, easy and had a nice ring to it. “Land Rover” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily. I suspect there will be people who will always call it “Rolex” just as there are people who have always called it “Kentucky.” It seems to come down to personal preference now more than before!
The other two major changes, particularly affecting the dressage phase were of course the 4* Test B, which was published last year but hadn’t been ridden in competition until this weekend, and the removal of the multiplier in dressage scoring.
The new test is pretty action packed, it goes by very quickly and there isn’t much breathing room between movements. There are some interesting combinations of movements that are new to the level. In the trot tour, the half pass comes before the shoulder in. This seemed counter-intuitive to me at first, the logical progression would seem to be the other way around, but Bailey and I discussed every detail of the test as she was watching on the live stream, and I learned that it was more of a test of straightness, and the more I watched, the more it made sense! There is also a rein back straight into the canter, which caused its’ fair share of issues. The flying change sequence wasn’t particularly different from the previous test, it caused problems in some tests while others shined, as always. The halts were interestingly placed, the first halt was at I and the final halt was at L. For the most part this wasn’t an issue, but there were a handful of horses who seemed confused as to why they were cantering past X on their entry and there were a few abrupt halts at the ends of tests. I also noticed a few tired horses towards the end of their tests, as there really was no breathing room in between movements. The reception that I heard from the other spectators around me was mixed, but I do have to say that by the end of the 46th test, it was making a lot of sense!
The loss of the multiplier was also a major factor in the scoring. For those not familiar with eventing dressage scoring or not familiar with this FEI change (does not affect national competitions), here’s a quick explanation: eventing is a penalty sport, so the dressage percentage has to be converted into a penalty score. Up until 2018, the penalty score would be the inverse of the percentage, multiplied by 1.5, so a 70% would translate to a penalty score of 45. The new rule has removed this multiplier of 1.5, so a 70% now translates to a penalty score of 30. The main affect of this change is that dressage scores are now stacked much closer together, which in turn makes the other two phases much more influential. For example, at the conclusion of dressage, the top 5 are all within 4 points of each other (3.9 to be specific, not even a rail in hand!), the top 10 are all within 7 points of each other, the top 20 are all within just over 10 points of each other and there are 22.4 points separating first and last place. There are tied scores for 6th, 8th, 13th, 28th and 36th and a three way tie for 32nd. Just as a reminder, the first refusal on cross country is 20 penalties and each second over optimum time is .4 penalties. In stadium each rail or refusal is 4 penalties and each second over optimum time is 1 penalty. The fact that these scores are so tightly packed means that the next two phases have the potential to completely rearrange the leaderboard.
Another new addition was a lovely musical freestyle performed on the second day of dressage just before the lunch break, by Liz Halliday-Sharp and Deniro Z. This was sponsored by a wearable heart rate tracker for horse and rider and showcased its use during the test. This was different, and a great addition in my opinion, that allowed event spectators to see something that we wouldn’t normally get to see outside of a dressage show!
Something else that we don’t often get to see at events is a show jumping competition! A new addition to the schedule this year was courtesy of the Split Rock Jumping Tour, which held a $35,000 CSI3* Invitational Welcome Speed Cup on Friday night and has a $225,000 CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix scheduled for after cross country on Saturday. The best part (besides all the extra jumping we get to see!) is that both events are completely free! The Friday event was open to all, and a ticket is required to reserve your spot for the Saturday event, but there is no charge. This is another awesome opportunity for us to see another sport up close and personal! Hopefully this event will be around next year as well!
I’m really looking forward to cross country tomorrow to see how the course rides and of course, how the leaderboard looks at the end of the day! I’ll be posting clips from around the course on my Instagram story all day, so check out @erinmcleodeventing if you want to follow along!