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With the exciting news that we will be able to get out eventing on our horses again very soon, Horse Search wanted to look into what differences there are between competing with British Eventing and becoming a BE member and competing in Unaffiliated one-day events.
We have started to train our horses more specifically, have lessons, hire out a Cross Country course in preparation, maybe do some extra fitness ourselves, and we have got our goals for the year and diaries out ready to fill and this season people are going to be more enthusiastic than ever.
Here we mainly look at the grassroots level eventing (BE80-BE100) and the factors that may influence our decisions to choose to compete in either or both. I’m always amazed by the numbers of entries and competitors at both Unaffiliated One Day Events (ODE) and British eventing, with often 3 -5 sections for each class of between 30-40 riders, and events are often oversubscribed so it seems the desire to get out competing is higher than ever, even with the costs of a day out eventing seeming to increase each year.
If I’m honest I find all the membership options a bit confusing and have spent more time than I wish trying to purchase day passes and work out the system to simply enter an event. And you can find out much more information on the British eventing website but here is a brief account.
The main membership options for riders wanting to compete are either:
Competing with BE gives us the opportunity to sometimes compete alongside our eventing idols, they are extremely well run and organised events. As well as supporting the sport and business of eventing to make sure we still have a sport to enjoy. There are a few other benefits included in being a full member of BE, including an unlimited number of entries to events, yard visits, third party insurance, discounts tickets to events and free entry up to CCI2*.
At Grassroot level (BE80T-BE100) I think the main perks would include getting a horse a British eventing record which may be especially useful if planning to sell the horse as BE records can be easily looked up, also younger horses (4-5yo) can be aimed at the young horse championships. The BE80T classes have trainers that assist in warm-ups and offer course walks which are fantastic if new to eventing and that extra knowledgable support would be beneficial.
The ground is generally well prepared and cared for, especially if the event runs many classes across the board. Plus, the course designers are professionals and follow strict guidelines for both SJ and XC courses. The officials are knowledgeable about the rules and they are always helpful and willing to advise.
The Science supplements cup held at the Badminton Horse Trials, the Blenheim eventer challenge, and the 80T championship, due to be held at Burghley however due to covid was held at Norton Disney in 2020. These events give amateur and pleasure riders an opportunity to ride around places that we dream of and grow up watching on the television. As well as the new team challenge is a fun way to get involved in eventing with a team environment.
Also, due to the ballot system used with British eventing if you are a member your chances of getting into an event should be greater (which as we said earlier can often be very oversubscribed) by using your ballot stickers on preferred venues.
The eventing calendar is out early and all in one place on the British eventing website so it is easy to search for and plan your year of eventing.
In my opinion, there’s not much not to like about the unaffiliated ODE’s, especially when held at a BE venue. Although they only really cater for the grassroots level eventers, from 80cm to 100cm. (BE80T- BE100), so if you are looking to carry on up the levels from novice upwards you will likely have to look into competing through British eventing.
The venues that are available often also run as British eventing venues, sometimes ran the week after a BE competition while all the equipment is still set up. This will give you a great idea of what you will also have face if you decide to compete BE and it’s not a lower or easy option in comparison. However, if it is not a BE venue be aware that the courses may not be as consistent as you get at BE and the grounds as well cared for and managed
Some riders may feel more confident or less pressure starting at an unaffiliated event. Plus, Unaffiliated events are brilliant for riders that perhaps only do a couple of events a year alongside all their other activities so would not want to be forking out the extra membership costs.
The entry fees are often similar across BE and Unaffiliated perhaps some unaffiliated events coming in slightly cheaper, however, you also don’t have to contend with any membership or ticket costs which all add to what is always an expensive day out. And if we win or get placed (in both BE and Unaff) don’t be expecting your winnings to pay for the cost of your day out (maybe a coffee and a burger at the end of the day if we’re lucky).
You may also have to spend a bit of time searching through the different Horse event and booking websites like ‘Horse-Events’ to find out what is on in your area, which may mean you miss out on some events if not well publicised.
There is a new incentive for budding Grassroot eventers to compete in unaffiliated events in the form of ‘The Cotswold Cup’ whose aim is to raise the bar for unaffiliated eventing and has a prize package worth getting your horse bathed and plaited for! With classes at 80, 90, and 100cm, they are offering substantial prize money (a £10,000 prize pot) for the open classes and exclusive training bursaries with elite event riders for the Juniors. It is its first year of running in 2021 and it has some fantastic venues on the calendar and they are obviously setting each event to comply with a strict set of standards.
The Cotswold cup is a brilliant addition, but obviously more so if you are based in the more southern parts of the UK or within an hour or so of the Cotswolds, so it would be fantastic if we could see this grow to perhaps accommodate a version in the north of the UK too.
There is also a Young Horse series called NEXGEN. The aim of the NEXGEN is to offer 4, 5, 6 and 7 year old classes to discover and nurture potential future Event horses of any breed. There are qualifiers held around the country and the final held at Hickstead with an impressive prize pot. One to definitely look in to if you are currently producing a young horse.
You can see that there are obviously pros to both competing through British eventing and unaffiliated. It is massively important we support BE if we want to be able to enjoy the sport for years and years to come, and if you have ambitions of competing novice and upwards British eventing is really the only option.
I would encourage people to do and support both, create a calendar based across both BE and Unaff to suit your location, when you are available, and if the entry fees are perhaps cheaper at a certain event to another (be aware if an unaff is much further away it may be just a cost-effective to buy an eventing ticket over fuel cost and our extra time lost travelling.), and have a contingency plan as these events will be busier than ever in 2021 so there’s a good chance you will not get into every event you enter.
However, as cost seems to be the main factor as to why people would choose Unaff ODE over BE, and BE increasing costs over the last few years they may well, unfortunately, be pushing Grassroot competitors away unless they can offer a prize pot that is worth going out for, or start matching the entry fees of the Unaff events.
And most importantly, however, you choose to compete just have fun and stay safe as that’s what it’s really all about anyway!!