Following on from the news that British Eventing will be trialling the use of stop watches for cross country at all levels, riders have expressed mixed reactions to the news.

Whilst many support the trial, which will see riders allowed to use stop watches at BE80, BE90 & BE100 from the first event of 2016 to the end of June, others feel it will detract from good cross country riding.

When asked their views on the news on Eventing Worldwide’s Facebook page, riders of all levels expressed their opinions. Amongst those in favour of the trial, Carly Rochester said: “About time I think, I will definitely be wearing one.”

Another in favour was Franky Reid Warrilow who commented: “This is a fantastic idea and exactly what I wanted to happen. I hope that this proves I was right and will help people to ride safer.”

Alex Whewell told Eventing Worldwide: “I think it’s a good thing as it will help people at Lower levels relax and stop riding too fast without taking into consideration the terrain and obstacles on the cross country course.”

Professional event rider Bruce Haskell, who is President of the Eventing Riders Association, also supported the trial. He said: “This is a very positive and progressive move by British Eventing and not a gut reaction – it has been on the table for a long time. But we need to remember that it is a trial. Horses travel across country above and below the speed allowed – Ingrid Klimke’s round at Aachen was one of the best examples of this. There is enough evidence that inappropriate speed contributes to accidents. Stopwatches are a tool that help riders assess speed. It is not a race against the clock. At lower levels, allowing the use of a stop watch is an opportunity to increase safety, and is part of an education programme on how to access speed across the country. Mark Corbett’s work is a good example of how younger riders are trained and British Eventing has recognised the need for this training. For the Under 18 programme it is part of their education but other riders do not have access to this because it’s not compulsory. We must remember this is a trial and that the gift will be taken back by British Eventing if it is abused. There are already penalties for bad riding and that needs to be passed on to riders who are too quick and then slow down and viewed as badly as anything else.”

But some have expressed mixed feelings. Eventing Worldwide’s grassroots blogger Laura Hayward, who will compete at the Mitsubishi Motors Cup at Badminton where stopwatches will be allowed, said: “I always felt this year that I would like to use one, but now I can I’m not sure how I feel. I think it could take a bit of getting used to having never used one, so I’m glad I will have a couple of events before Badminton, but I’m hoping by then it will be in my favour.”

Becky Sprone commented: “I learnt through Pony Club to BE to judge the course for individual horses without a stop watch. I think that education is invaluable to riders of all ages to complete their fully rounded cross country riding technique. With a stop watch I think you could easily distracted from riding a competent round regardless of a few time penalties. Obviously when you achieve a good cross country riding technique then the stop watch is a bonus but should not been seen as an essential.”

Louisa Milne Home said: “It’s not a new idea. It used to be that you could ride with a stopwatch at all levels then was stopped as people where just tearing around and then walking over finish line so not sure why they think it will improve peoples judgment on pace now.”

Renowned human performance coach Jon Pitts said: “It’s one thing allowing the use of watches, but learning to use them in tandem with safe riding skills is another.”

Sarah Carless Reporter at Large

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