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on running horses more often: CMP at USEA meeting

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  • on running horses more often: CMP at USEA meeting

    From the Chronicle's coverage:

    when international superstars like British rider Oliver Townend appear to be running their horses more than ever at the top levels of the sport, it sends a mixed message to up-and-coming eventing enthusiasts. Townend placed eighth at the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in April, won the Burghley CCI**** (England) in September and then contested the Pau CCI**** (France) in October, all on Carousel Quest.

    USEF Eventing Chef d’Equipe Mark Phillips stepped in to explain that many coaches are changing their theories on four-star fitness. He said British coach Yogi Breisner even considered sending Carousel Quest to the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships, three weeks after Burghley.

    “The recovery period is so much quicker than it used to be when we had endurance,” Phillips said. “It’s much more like a race horse, which maintains a higher level of fitness throughout the year and peaks maybe once a month, instead of twice a year. I’m absolutely convinced that the horse has got to be just as fit today, if not fitter, than before.”
    The logic here is confusing. Or perhaps not very logical given the facts.

    So how did Mr. Townend's horses perform at the end of the season?

    Not well at all. Carousel Quest's SJ round at Pau -- was it 7 fences down? -- would lead one to believe that he'd been asked to perform one too many times. As for Flint Curtis (his 2009 record is here), he was E'd from his last two events of the year. He was eliminated on XC at the World Cup final in Poland, then at the European Championships, he had 2 run outs on XC and was spun at the jog the next day.

    Given the above, I suspect the real reason Yogi Breisner was considering putting Carousel Quest on the GB team for the Euros was because Flint Curtis was NQR. That would make sense -- the team coach would go with his best chances of success, especially after losing other horses to injury.

    Doesn't anyone think to question CMP when he presents his theories? Or is there no venue for this when he speaks to the membership of the USEA?

  • #2
    I see MANY holes in this "logic."

    Um, aren't the top racehorses actually racing A LOT LESS today, than they used to 20 yrs ago? How many starts does the average GI winner have per year?

    And it's not like our top horses "only" compete twice a year... they have horse trials once a month (or more) to help them prepare and peak for the three-day. Just like a horse on the Derby trail has a couple prep races beforehand. But, those races *aren't* the Derby and aren't ridden as such.

    It is completely appropriate to run advanced horse trials 3 or 4 weeks apart. But at this point in time, a "CCI" is not a horse trial-- it is some hybrid bastardization that still demands much more of the horse's physical abilities. As such, horses must endure the stress and pressure of everyday training and preparation, taking a gradual toll on the body. Then the extra-long xc at a CCI does a little more damage... this is ok, because you prepared for it, AND because the horse will have ample time to recover afterwards (WEEKS OFF). Eliminating the "down time" will eventually fry the mind and wear down the horses beyond their physical limits.

    And wasn't a huge "benefit" of this short-format supposed to be longer, healthier careers for our equine superstars?
    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
    ? Albert Einstein



    • #3
      AJ, you are brilliant. I am glad you are the "up and coming" in our sport.


      Full of light; shining. See synonyms at bright.
      Relating to or being a hue that has a combination of high lightness and strong saturation.
      Sharp and clear in tone.
      Glorious; magnificent: the brilliant court life at Versailles.
      Superb; wonderful: The soloist gave a brilliant performance.
      Marked by unusual and impressive intellectual acuteness: a brilliant mind; a brilliant solution to the problem. See synonyms at intelligent.
      A precious gem, especially a diamond, finely cut in any of various forms with numerous facets.


      • #4
        Originally posted by EventerAJ View Post

        Um, aren't the top racehorses actually racing A LOT LESS today, than they used to 20 yrs ago? How many starts does the average GI winner have per year?
        Don't know about an "average number" of starts for G1 horses but, just off the top of my head...it's got to be under about 6 to 8 a year Look at how many retire unsound at age 3 with 6 or 7 LIFETIME starts. And there are certainly enough G1 races still around they could do as many as they used to when they ran once a month. Or more.

        Even something like Zenyatta who retired sound at age 5 coming 6 was undefeated in ...oh, was it 15 or 16? LIFETIME starts. CMP missed the math on that one. Or he is stuck in the past.
        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by findeight View Post
          Even something like Zenyatta who retired sound at age 5 coming 6 was undefeated in ...oh, was it 15 or 16? LIFETIME starts.
          14 starts.

          Zenyatta's connections do put their horses first -- even when there's a lot of money on the line.


          • #6
            Oh I agree, JER, I think many of the "less" starts is due to "looking after the horse's best interest."

            Take Einstein, for example (because he isn't one of those precocious 2-3 year olds rushing of to the breeding shed after a blip of success). He raced from age 3 (three starts) to age 7 (seven starts). At age 6, he had nine starts...but they weren't all graded stakes!

            Did Rachel Alexandra race all year? If you recall, she skipped the Belmont so she could... REST. Her fall campaign ended in September so she could... REST. (yes I know there were other reasons why she skipped the BC, but she could have run somewhere else, like the Clark at CD). But instead, her owner decided to give her a break and bring her out fresh next year.

            See the "logic" here? Trainers doing right by their horses and running them sparingly, with the best chance of success. Racing a burnt-out horse doesn't give you much chance to win, and it doesn't set them up well for their next victory, either.

            And Gry, thank you for your support. I saw you on that other thread too, I just didn't get back in time to respond... glad you liked my site, thanks for your kind comments.
            “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
            ? Albert Einstein



            • #7
              Nice that Mark Phillips is "absolutely convinced" in the absence of any data whatsoever.
              Click here before you buy.


              • #8
                Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                Nice that Mark Phillips is "absolutely convinced" in the absence of any data whatsoever.
                Uh, would you expect anything more? What if data got in the way of what he wants? For that matter, what if the horse got in the way of what he wants?

                AJ - no worries, I don't expect a response, just letting you know my thoughts.


                • Original Poster

                  Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                  Nice that Mark Phillips is "absolutely convinced" in the absence of any data whatsoever.
                  And I'm so glad CMP isn't, say, a cardiologist...


                  • #10
                    He adresses fitness BUT he doesn't address the wear and tear of keeping him fit enough to run at three ****'s in a year. So, yes, a fit horse is less likely to injure himself but what is the cost of his long term soundness?
                    4..3..2..1...Have a nice ride!!!


                    • Original Poster

                      To extend the racing comparison...

                      Across the pond, in National Hunt racing, the top horses are prepped for the big races and they run the big races. That's it. No extras.

                      NH's two big stars -- and these are two of the finest TBs to ever land on planet Earth -- Kauto Star and Denman, are 2000 models at the peak of their careers. They both would make excellent eventers and they're the same size and age and the top horses in our sport.

                      Here's their schedules for the current season:

                      This year, Kauto Star (a 16.3hh French-bred) won the Betfair Chase (for the 3rd time) a couple of weeks ago. He'll go on to the King George on Boxing Day (he's aiming to tie Dessie's record) and then try for his 3rd Cheltenham Gold Cup. C'est tout. KS has 31 lifetime starts, although it should be noted he started out as a hurdler in France where starts tend to be more frequent.

                      Denman, an Irish-bred who is well over 17hh (he is huge), has had 17 lifetime starts. Last year, he was treated for an irregular heartbeat and raced only twice, still managing a 2nd in the Gold Cup. This year, he won the Hennessy Gold Cup and was jumping out of his skin. He will run a race in February as a prep for the Gold Cup (he won in 2008, ahead of KS).

                      These horses race over substantial fences, over 3+ miles over undulating terrain in varied weather conditions.

                      In NH racing, a bad race can be debilitating. If a horse misses at a fence but stays on his feet, he may lose confidence. If a horse falls, he may lose a lot more than that. So you plan your battles carefully, choosing courses and races that suit the horse, all with the Big Race as the underlying goal. You only do what you need to do.


                      • #12
                        The ignorant leading the uniformed. While I will never question these folks' abilities on a horse, they have continued to prove that they are incapable of independent thought and are unwilling to grow their understanding of the animals to which they owe their livelihood.

                        When has it ever been shown that horses physically (joint, bone, tendon damage etc.) recover to baseline faster now?

                        Isn't it amazing how the their theory is changing to fit the new format/business model while the actual veterinary science has shown that the intensity and effort is somewhat GREATER than the old format?



                        • Original Poster

                          Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                          The ignorant leading the uniformed.
                          uniformed? I think you mean uninformed.

                          But I agree with you 100%. Especially about the business model part.


                          • #14
                            Thank you JER, for beginning this thread...I say this as someone who loves this sport and the horses that make it possible.
                            ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                              Isn't it amazing how the their theory is changing to fit the new format/business model while the actual veterinary science has shown that the intensity and effort is somewhat GREATER than the old format?

                              I read some interesting stuff in Dr. H Clayton's book about how the lungs function like a "piston", my words not hers, meaning the air is pushed out by the internal organs as the leading leg reaches for the ground (and this system become rhythmic) and that when you interrupt the rhythm of the system it causes additional stress. It would make sense that our new courses are interrupting this rhythm of the respiratory system and making a shorter course harder on the horses. Has this been discussed?

                              It actually doesn't amaze me in the least that the powers have decided to market the model that supports the business, regardless of the facts. Sad, but not surprising.


                              • #16
                                In addition to the added physical wear and tear - the 'short format' adds mental stress.
                                The UL dressage test have increased difficulty, the SJ is becoming more complex and well, we know how the XC courses have changed.

                                I believe that even the horses who survive the physical wear & tear may well mentally crash. Not to mention the 'indoor' eventing classes offered - it is almost becoming a 24/7-365 "sport." Hmmm - how is the current eventing environment encouraging true horsemanship?
                                "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
                                Courtesy my cousin Tim


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by fooler View Post

                                  Hmmm - how is the current eventing environment encouraging true horsemanship?
                                  It's not encouraging true horsemanship and neither does Mark Phillips. He may be "absolutely convinced" that it is fine to run horses over and over, just like he is "absolutely convinced" that his design not responsible for all the serious injuries and deaths that have happened on HIS courses.

                                  Those riders that *are* exhibiting true horsemanship are being squeezed out or, at a minimum, generally ignored by team selectors. Since day one of his tenure, Mark Phillips has been preaching more is better. Just look at the way we selected our last Olympic team.... pound, pound, pound outing after outing until a very large portion of the training list was seriously injured or dead. We were one of the last countries (if not THE last) to select our team because we needed to get one more outing done.

                                  Anytime he is "absolutely convinced" of anything, it is generally detrimental to horse, rider, or the sport in general (or all of the above).


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by fooler View Post
                                    I believe that even the horses who survive the physical wear & tear may well mentally crash. Not to mention the 'indoor' eventing classes offered - it is almost becoming a 24/7-365 "sport." Hmmm - how is the current eventing environment encouraging true horsemanship?
                                    I agree. Its so sad. Its more like the hunter model now, shipping up and down the coast to follow the weather and showing every weekend with no break in sight. Forget the horse, Id be burned out. I love taking my winters off to regroup, work things out, spend more time thinking about just riding than thinking about getting ready for a show.

                                    To see the recent evolution in horse sports is really disappointing. Even more so that we seem to be in the minority. If this is what it takes to make it nowadays, I guess I dont want it bad enough, because its certainly not worth my horses. After all, didnt we all get into this because we just loved horses in the first place?


                                    • #19
                                      I can tell you as a low level rider with one horse, I treat that boy with great care. I would never consider pounding him like they do some of the upper level horses , even if I could get to the upper levels, which I won't. How in the hell do they keep them sound?


                                      • #20
                                        In the pro riders meeting yesterday, many were bemoaning the fact that they actually condition now the same way they have conditioned in the past. One rider said if he compared his Badminton schedule of 2005 to last years it would be identical, despite the format change. They were chiefly interested in the promotion of their continual adherence to traditional conditioning methods. Not sure how that fits in here, just reporting what was said.

                                        Racehorse comparisons are apples to oranges. I race horses and you guys are off on that. They are actually racing horses more in America than ever before. (This has to do with venues and additional race dates in addition to east coast slots-driven purses.) The comparison is simply not valid, as racehorses don't condition, train or require the skill of an event horse in the three phases especially at the upper levels. Now that's a bit.... UNINFORMED. Any racetrainers care to chime in?

                                        (Keep watching. I will have more to say. Have to work right now.)
                                        Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                                        Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)