Responsibility Lies On Both Sides Of The Table

Sep 27, 2013 - 5:07 AM
Thanks to a night of rain prior to cross-country, Plantation's course softened up perfectly, and Sinead Halpin and Manoir de Carneville galloped to a win in the CIC***. Photo by Brian Callanan.

The lead-up to Plantation Field International was pretty exciting. Every day I got a new email from the organizers about different events planned, passes for owners, and exciting happenings going on every day for the public as well as the competitors to enjoy. I’m not going to lie, it was nice to just forward the emails to my syndicate members and know they would get to enjoy some of the perks of being involved in owning part of a three-star horse.

On a personal level, I felt more prepared and ready to be very competitive, so the lead-up was really exciting. When we got to the competition the tents were set up, and there was a three-day type vibe going on that made you feel like you were part of something as soon as you arrived.

In Europe almost every “workman event” has a courtyard type feel around at least the show jumping arena where there is a VIP/bar area, vendors and normally a scores tent (it tends to rain a lot over there!). These considerations make even the smaller events a pleasant place for the spectator, owner and maybe the occasional not-so-horsey parent/spouse. Plantation has the right idea in turning their competition into a type of “country fair” for the community, and I applaud their efforts.

The “horse show” side of the competition still has some quirks to work out, but they certainly have the team to deal with the issues. The new warm-up arena is greatly improved, although the footing had not quite settled on dressage day. By jumping on Saturday it was much improved, and it will be excellent for events in the future.

I was terribly concerned with the footing on cross-country on Saturday—we hadn’t had any rain, and a lot of us were talking about not being able to run fast or the possibility of not running cross-country at all. Thankfully we got rain all Saturday night, and the footing was great.

This is an issue we run into a lot with our sport. Having no access to water at most cross-country venues leaves most of us praying to the rain gods or having the real possibility of not running our precious partners at certain events.

From what I heard around the campfire the judging in the dressage was tough, but to be honest, I would rather that than the other way. If we get pleasantly surprised at a European event by our mark, it would be a welcome change!

Marc Donovan’s show jump course was beautiful, and if it was possible to ride it like it walked, it went well. Tremaine Cooper’s cross-country course worked well with Plantation’s difficult terrain, and if anything could have a few more “big brush” fences. But to be honest, working with the hills and the weaving course, one is better safe than sorry. Now the water jump…

The water seemed to be fairly straightforward when walking it. No one thought it was going to cause the issues it did… until after the advanced ran on Saturday.

Read about Sinead’s CIC*** victory at Plantation, as well as other division winners and more analysis of the event, in our Oct. 7 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.

I genuinely feel there was a communication breakdown. A few riders came back from running the advanced saying the water rode terribly—quote: “There will be falls.” The horses just weren’t reading it right, they said, and were jumping in badly. Now, there is certain protocol, and this information should have gone to the Rider Rep, who then would have reported to the TD. The concern got voiced but obviously did not travel through the “correct” pipeline.

I still feel that the jump should have been removed sooner, but the responsibility lies on both sides of the table. The riders are responsible for getting the information to the right people, and the right people are then responsible for doing the right thing. I do think the people in charge knew there was concern, but obviously we did not make it clear enough. Thankfully no horse or rider was seriously injured, and I know I have personally been involved, as have many of my peers, in conversations about how to learn from these mistakes.

I know from having my family involved in the operations of The Fork Horse Trials that running an event like Plantation is a 365-day-a-year job. This job includes a lot of sleepless nights for really not that much reward. I’m sorry for the horses and riders who fell victim to the water jump, as I’m sorry the efforts of the event were marred by the controversy over its design.

I’m a huge supporter of Plantation and will continue to support the event because we’re all on the same team to make it “The Best Event Ever” for the owners, sponsors, spectators and, most of all, the horses.

I’m obviously thrilled with my horse and my team at the competition. I saw some fantastic horse-and-rider combinations and some exciting stuff happening behind the scenes. I’m very proud to be part of a sport with such fantastic people and phenomenal animals.


Sinead Halpin Equestrian


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