William Fox-Pitt appeared as a guest speaker at BETA International in Birmingham, England earlier this month. When asked about his thoughts on where the sport of eventing was headed, he shared his perspective based on years of experience at the top levels of the sport:
“I see it personally as I’m very glad that I witnessed the long format and the short format. I still think that there is something missing from the sport losing the long format, I think that the element of horsemanship is going now. I can really see, if I’m being very negative, eventing ending up as arena eventing. I think with money and with venues, the FEI have got this bee in their bonnet about it being worldwide and obviously there are some countries that just can’t do horses, simple as that. So if the whole worldwide thing is going to go on and on and on, we’re going to end up in an arena doing eventing. And there’s an excitement to that.
I really hope that I’m wrong, I really hope that we still see the likes of Badminton and Burghley going on, with proper cross country.
I wasn’t brought up in the arena eventing era. Express Eventing didn’t exist in my day when I was a child, so I’ve had to learn to do it and to get on with it, and it’s something I do, but it’s absolutely not what I do. I went to Central Park in New York (for the arena eventing competition this summer), but purely because A) I was asked and B) I thought ‘What a great thing to experience’, but I was completely out of my comfort zone, on a borrowed horse in an arena, having to go flat out – that’s all things I hate. And it could well be the way it’s all going to go.
I really hope that I’m wrong, I really hope that we still see the likes of Badminton and Burghley going on, with proper cross country. I’d be very sad to see the distance of cross country become so short – the four mile cross country I think is what eventing is about, it’s why it’s called eventing and not called arena jumping. I’d be very keen to see that, but I know there’s serious pressure and the FEI are all on this worldwide mission.
We look at the next Olympics being down to three riders per country, the third score will carry and if you don’t complete you’ll just carry 100 penalties and just get on with it. I think that’s so sad, that suddenly you haven’t got your discard score, so there’s even talk about if you can’t jump your horse on the last day, you might borrow the reserve horse or just jump another horse. Well, I struggle getting my head around all that. Maybe it’s what we’re going to get used to, but I’ll be very glad that I’ll be too old to be involved.”