British Eventing has given the green light for grassroots riders to use stopwatches for the cross country phases for a trial period.
But it is a move which hasn’t received universal approval from riders.
With the permission of British Eventing Chief Executive David Holmes, cross country stopwatches will be permitted at all levels – BE80, BE90 and BE100, including the Mitsubishi Motors Cup – from the first event of 2016 until the end of June.
Previously forbidden at BE100 and below, following feedback from stewards and officials, British Eventing found that riders of all ages at lower levels were struggling to find the correct pace and to adapt their rhythm and speed for different levels of tracks. Based on this they have taken the decision to trial the use of timing devices for a period of four months before a further decision is taken.
According to British Eventing, coaches are increasingly getting the U18 programme riders to use the gallops in training to learn how to set their pace so it is hoped that the trial will enable competitors to put into practice what they train to do at home.
Under 18 Regional Coach, Mark Corbett, commented; “It is about learning to use the stopwatches as part of your cross country equipment and to help riders find the rhythm and speed that they use in training to then use in competition. Speed Training courses from BE will be coming out around the country at all ages and levels to understand how to use their watches effectively and put it in to practice using marked distances.”
However, riders at all levels are unsure about the stopwatch trial and the effect it will have on competition and riding skills.
Australian international event rider Warren Lamperd, who is a UKCC Level 3 coach for British Eventing and BSJA, believes stopwatches should not be introduced until Novice level. He told Eventing Worldwide: “I don’t think they should be allowed until at least Novice and probably International novice. I think riders need to learn to ride what they feel so that when they get to a three day they can react to the horse rather than to the watch. My concern would be riders not developing the skill set that they would need to go on.”
Stacey Littlejohns, who competed this year at BE80 and Novice, commented: “Personally I don’t think it’s a great idea for the lower levels. You need to learn how to judge the time, the course, the length and how your horse is going without the aid of a stop watch. I think it will also make it much less of a competition because in the lower levels you have plenty of time to get around the course comfortably. If we all knew we were bang on the time then there will be a lot less change in the leader board from the dressage phase, making it more of a dressage competition and less of a ODE. I have just started wearing a stop watch. It made no effect on my timing because I knew how my horse felt, judged how long the course was and where I would need more time jumping fences and where I could make up time but also it did make me aware how quickly time goes, will this lead to people going really fast at the beginning of the course then trotting their way home because they didn’t judge it right? It may also distract the less experienced riders when they should concentrating on their horses.”
Grassroots rider Cat Jamieson, who competed at BE80 and BE90 this season, agrees. “I think it’s a bad thing, certainly for BE80 as surely the rider should be focusing on going round safely and clearly without pushing for time. However, saying that, now I’ve moved up I would be intrigued to see if it made me closer to the time if I knew where I was time wise.”
Full details on timing devices will be published in the 2016 British Eventing Rule book and information on training is available at www.britisheventing.com/training/
Sarah Carless Reporter at Large