Since qualifying as an H level judge I have judged the Dressage phase at quite a few One Day Events in our area, but was blown away when Vicki Burgess asked if I would be interested I being on the Ground Jury for the 80 cm class at the Quirindi 3DE. I evented locally as a child with not a great deal of success, and then participated in my first ODE for 24 years about 18 months ago- the 45 cm class at Nyngan where I managed to get the princess eliminated at the last jump, the water. So I’m not totally ignorant about eventing, but definitely not what you would call an expert.
So it was with trepidation that I set off last week, not knowing what I was in for. Well I shouldn’t have been concerned. What a great bunch of people to work with. The Ground Jury for this class consisted of Winks Armstrong and myself with Rebecca Moxam as the Technical Delegate. The Ground Jury makes the decisions on fitness, rule interpretations and appeals/protests in conjunction with Vets, stewards and other officials.
So what is the process for a 3DE ? On the Thursday afternoon, all horses were inspected by an FEI Steward and a Vet to make sure they were who they were supposed to be… no Fine Cotton here.
And then the fun began.
Friday morning started with an official Trot Up, where all horses were inspected by an FEI vet, Celina Sylvester in this case and the rest of the Ground Jury for that class. It’s a very formal process with riders and horses dolled up, each combination called up by the marshall, then an announcement made at the completion.
Horses were required to stand for a quick visual inspection, then walk approximately 10m, then trot about 30, turn around a marker clockwise and trot all the way back. If all members of the Ground Jury were happy with the soundness of the horse, then it was accepted and off they went. If there were any concerns regarding the fitness of the horse to complete the three phases, then they were “held”, and fully inspected by another vet, and another FEI Steward. The horse was then represented.
If a horse is still not quite right, the Ground Jury, in consultation with the FEI Vet and the TD may eliminate the combination, the rider may withdraw the horse, or the horse may be accepted pending another inspection, possibly under saddle prior to the dressage phase. It may also be that the horse is allowed to complete the dressage, but must be inspected again before being allowed to present for the Cross Country.
My class was a huge class, with 32 combinations presenting to the vet. Being the lowest class, we had quite a few young horses with experienced riders, and some quite experienced horses with juniors or inexperienced riders. A number of the horses in my class were a bit scratchy, mostly due to age. I found it a really difficult thing to balance the principles of encouraging inexperienced riders on experienced horses and helping them enjoy the sport with the principles of welfare of the horse. We ended up with one horse that needed to represent before its’ dressage, and 3 that the vet watched their dressage to make sure they were ok and definitely safe and sound enough to go cross country.
In the end, all were deemed ok to continue through the dressage and cross country.
So what does the Ground Jury do for Cross Country ?
We had to inspect the Cross Country course, observe all our class cross country and deal with any appeals that arose from XC in consultation with jump judges, XC control and the TD.
Its quite a long walk around a long format 3DE course. At least our course was simple enough with no options to consider but we did have one tricky bit, a pipe bounce. Apparently this is a legal fence but quite unusual.
Sue Gunn, Darryl Burgess and Ming Thompson had done a brilliant job on the XC course. Each fence had clear ground lines and hundreds of potplants were used as fill and colour. To top it off, the entire course and surrounds had been mown.
The Ground Jury for each class stays the same, but in practice the GJ’s for all the classes shared the duties across all classes;
One person ( for my class, this was me) stayed with Control, who is the person who keeps a tally of refusals and incidents on course and makes the call if someone needs to be pulled off the course and walk home. In this case, control was up on a hill, and could see most of the course.
Another went to the finish, and if someone missed a fence on course or there were questions that needed to be dealt with, this person informed the rider immediately. This is a relatively new idea, and it worked brilliantly and ended up saving quite a lot of time trying to find riders after the fact, and reduced the number of appeals as the riders knew straight away while it was fresh in anyone’s mind if there had been an issue.
There were 2 GJ members that roamed around each part of the course, and if there were queries raised by control, they went straight to the jump judges and investigated immediately, again, while it was fresh in everyone’s mind.
I got to spend a bit of time with each of these positions, and then did the 1* and 2* classes at the finish with the FEI Stewards and vets. This was a really interesting facet of the event. Facial expressions at the end are quite special…jubilation of those who got around that didn’t expect to, exhaustion on the faces of those who had a hard ride and some interesting expressions on the faces of those who had to walk home as a result of elimination due to rider error.
Each horse is visually assessed for injuries, has its temperature taken and heart rate as soon as the rider finishes.
Horses are then iced, scraped, walked, hosed….to get their temps down as quickly as possible. This is a really busy area and the Quirindi committee had great finishes, right near wash bays with ample running water and ice on hand.
All horses were checked again at 10 minutes. Many horses’ temp increased at 10 minutes, but their heart rate dropped. If the vets were happy at 10 minutes, then they were cleared to go. If not, they were checked again at 20 minutes.
Only a couple of issues in the 80cm XC. No falls, a few missed jumps, a couple of refusals at the bounce pipes. Funnily enough, it wasn’t the actual bounce that was the problem, but rather, the lairy, shiny paint.
Another trot up before the showjumping, and only one issue. The horse did look a little sore in front, and the vets suggested a farrier check the horse as it looked like a minor issue that could be easily fixed, however the rider decided to with draw. Horses that were eliminated XC were allowed to complete the showjumping if they wished, subject to the trot up and a few took this option.
As a member of the GJ, we had to inspect the course for distance, height, marking, ground suitability, quality of the jumps and safety of individual fences. As expected, no issues and everything with the jumping went off without a hitch.
So from a newby, it was great to be involved with an event from start to finish. The weather was great, and in my class, I think the best horses floated to the top. Will I do it again ? In a heartbeat. As I said, I was nervous about taking on such a big and unknown task . Luckily, the rest of the team had a huge amount of experience and happily answered my multitude of questions.
I took a heap of photographs over the course of the weekend and you can see all of these at ***
Full results for all classes can be found at ****