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WoSJ Focus: The impact of late classes

Friday, 30 March 2012

Walking the course in middle of the night is not unusual anymore. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.It is no longer unusual that the last class at the big shows starts after 21.00, and finishes well beyond midnight. However, some classes are much later than others. At the CSI3* show in Munich in November, the 1.45 class on Friday started at 23.15 and finished well after midnight. On Saturday there was also a late class that started at 22.45. The CSI3* show in Bremen in March was another show with a very late competition; on Saturday a 1.40 class started at 23.30. In the schedule approved by the FEI the 1.40 class was set up for 18.50, and the last class was supposed to start at 22.00.

When the CSI3* show in Dortmund the next weekend featured a youngster class on Friday that started at 23.15, it must have felt like the final straw for many. In the draft schedule for the event – approved by the FEI – the time for this class was originally set to 21.45, and not 23.15. With 47 horses in the class, horses and grooms ended up finishing their "day" at 2.00 [AM]. With the grooms having to get back to work at 6.00 [AM] to lunge their horses before the dressage riders started to work theirs, they only got about three-four hours sleep.

The 'FEI Appendix to Jumping Schedule' contains a section on ensuring the interest of the grooms when establishing a schedule. The wording is as follows: "We urge Organising Committees to bear in mind, when establishing the competition schedule, that a groom's work day starts well before the first competition and ends long after the last competition of the day. Every effort should be made to provide equitable working conditions for the grooms throughout the event. First competition should not start before 8 am and last competition should not end after 11pm." In the 'Checklist for draft schedule jumping 2012' it is stated that: "International competitions must not start before 8:00 and should not finish after 23:00 unless approved by the FEI".

The late Youngster class at the three star show in Dortmund caused a lot of reactions amongst those involved. Josefine Jonsson – Denis Lynch's groom – was the last one finishing in the stable on Friday night; "I was finished right before 2.30 AM. At 2 AM they turned the lights off, but I still had to change rugs and take care of my last horse." Josefine also told WoSJ that her hours of sleep was limited to four hours per night throughout the weekend. "The biggest problem is really that the classes sometimes start in the middle of the night," Josefine adds.

Katarina Esping – Ludger Beerbaum's groom – also had a youngster in Friday evening's last class and her horse went into the ring at 00.40. Not exactly a usual time for a young and inexperienced horse to be ridden. And it wasn't just the horse that had a long day; Katarina had been up since 6.30 AM to lunge her first horse.

Christian Ahlmann's groom Emma Lundgren had about six hours sleep at the most during one night; "But in Dortmund we are lucky to have the outdoor arena and good weather that makes it possible for the riders to work the horses during the day; otherwise they would be forced to work the horses before the first class begins," Emma explained to WoSJ. "In general one of the problems is that the classes are so long, and then often with a jump-off afterwards. When such classes start at 9 PM it goes without saying that it gets late." Emma also added to WoSJ that: "A number of the German shows have a general poor reputation among the grooms due to the lack of satisfying working conditions. Some of us even try to plan our vacations around these shows just to escape going to them"

It is not just the grooms that are having long working days though; the riders have a busy schedule as well. "On Friday I had my first class at eight in the morning and my last class at eleven at night. In the evening I couldn´t remember which horse I had ridden in the morning because it seemed like that was so long ago. It feels like I have been here for a week!" Philipp Weishaupt said to WoSJ after the show in Dortmund.

"After a weekend like this you don´t know if it´s night or day anymore. And after the last class on Sunday [that started at 4.45 PM] we still have to pack all the things and drive the four hours back home,"Angelica Augustsson told WoSJ.

Late classes also have consequences for the horses. In Dortmund it was youngsters that had the absolutely latest class, and the same horses had their Youngster final already at noon the day after. For young and inexperienced horses, 13,5 hours between two classes can be somewhat short. Add to the short break that the lights in the stables went out at two o´clock and that the dressage horses' grooms were in the stable less than three hours later with the dressage riders training at six – there's not much rest to talk about for the horses either.

WoSJ has been in contact with the FEI, and John Roche – FEI Director of Jumping – stated that: "The FEI does its best to ensure that competitions are held at a reasonable hour. If the Organizing Committee of an event is proposing late starts, it is stressed by the FEI that competitions must start earlier. In the instance of CSI 3* Dortmund, the OC has ignored the timetable that was approved in the draft schedule. The FEI is therefore following up with them in order to establish the reasons for these delays and to ensure that this will not occur in the future."

World of Showjumping has tried to get in contact with the organizerof the shows in Bremen and Dortmund, but they have desisted from commenting.

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