This past weekend I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to compete at the Oakhurst Three Day Long Format Event/Clinic (Oakhurst 3DE). The aspect of the Oakhurst Three Day Long Format Event that made it so unique was that it was ran at the Entry to Training Levels and offered the experience of the original full Long Format.
So, Question 1: What is the difference between an original full Long Format event and the current Long Format and Short Format events?
A full Long Format event differs from current events in that it consists of a full endurance day instead of just cross country. In an original full Long Format event each phase is run on individual days beginning with a Horse Inspection (usually on a Wednesday or Thursday), followed by Dressage day (on Thursday and/or Friday, depending on the scale of the event), then endurance day (Saturday), finishing with a Final Horse Inspection and Show Jumping (Sunday). In today’s Long Format events (FEI Level) Saturday is strictly cross country, with all other days remaining the same, and in Short Format events (Horse Trials) all phases are run in one or two days and there are no Horse Inspections. Both the Long Format event styles were/are ridden at Preliminary Levels and above (now called One Star to Four Star), and the Horse Trials range from Pre-Entry to Advanced (in Canadian vocabulary J ).
Question 2: What makes endurance day different from cross country day?
On endurance day in the full Long Format events there are four phases with cross country being just the last phase.
- Phase A is Roads and Tracks. The length of Phase A varies depending on the scale of the event. This past weekend Phase A was only 2.6km but in the past Phase A would have been three to four times longer than this. Phase A is ridden at a walk, trot and maybe some canter (optimum speed of ~220mpm) and acts as your warm up.
- Phase B is steeplechase (yay!!). Steeplechase consists of galloping bru
sh fences with the idea that the horse gallops through the fences and jumps out of stride, never losing rhythm. In the Oakhurst clinic Phase B consisted of 5 jumps on a 900m track to be ridden at varying speeds (400-500mpm) depending on the level. In the past Phase B would have consisted of 8-10 jumps at an average speed of 600mpm.
- Phase C is a second Roads and Tracks, usually slightly longer than Phase A with a similar optimum speed. This phase allows the horse to have a breather after the intensity of Phase B. Phase C finishes in a 10 minute Vet Box where the horse is cooled down and vitals are taken by a veterinarian. The horse is made sure to be sound and to have recovered well enough to carry on to cross country. Any tack repairs are made and this is where a team of super awesome people is crucial!
- In Phases A, B and C there are optimum times however, unlike cross country, there are no faults for being faster than the calculated time. This said though, coming in too early results in extra energy expenditure which could prove detrimental in the phases to come. There are only faults for being over the optimum time. These faults come in at 1 fault per second over the optimum! This is why it is crucial to know your horse and know your markers.
- Finally, Phase D is cross country! Cross country is the same as we all know it, ridden at an optimum speed and within an optimum time. Faults for cross country are as they are today; 0.4 faults per second over optimum time and 1 fault per second faster than the speed fault time (too fast!).
The final Horse Inspection is conducted on Sunday morning before show jumping to
ensure that all horses are fit and sound to continue after endurance day. There are many hours of icing, poulticing, liniment and hand walking on Saturday night and Sunday morning to ensure that the horses do not become stiff and to spot any discrepancy in the horse’s usual behaviour or movement. It is important for riders to know that the horse comes first and there is no shame in withdrawing if you feel your horse is not up to competing the next day!
This type of Long Format event was run in major competitions up until 2004. The change was made to the current Long Format style to reduce the strain and stress on the horses. The original format required an immense amount of conditioning and put a lot of stress on the horse. These top level horses would only compete in one, maybe two of these events each year. The move was made to help preserve the horse on a yearly basis but to also help prolong the careers of the top level horses. These changes have proved beneficial to the longevity of the sport, and have made the opportunity to compete in an event of this style at the lower levels a very special opportunity.
Last but not least… Question3: What did I think of Oakhurst 3DE?
Ummmm….. It was AWESOME!!!!!! It was beyond amazing to have the opportunity to ride a horse that I have a special fondness for even though she does not belong to me. Paradigm T and I showed at the Pre-Training level along with our teammates from Quantum Farm; Megan Roberts and Magnified, Hannah Steele and Midnight Fury, and Jill Rohonczy and Tea for Tom. Just to add to the fun the Organizers decided to add a Team Challenge into the mix so we became Team Quanta (“The Great”).
The highlight of the weekend was moving up from eighth as a team after Dressage day to third and being only 0.4 points away from second place after stadium! All the horses were excellent in dressage and pulled off some amazing endurance day rounds to finish sound, strong and healthy on Stadium day. As a cherry on top Megan and Magnified finished in second place, and Paradigm T finished in a strong fourth place. To see the horsemanship, partnerships and dedication pay off so successfully in one weekend was something that I cannot even describe. I am very proud to call these riders my Teammates and so fortunate to be under the guidance and mentoring of Casey and Holly Gillis of Quantum Farm. Not to mention the ongoing support of our families, friends and grooms who were all there to help out and cheer us on! This truly is a sport that takes a village and the Quantum Farm team certainly showed that at the Oakhurst 3DE.
Finally a big shout out to all the organizers and volunteers at Oakhurst Farm for pulling this event together and providing a weekend to remember for all!