The use of the shaved (shallow) cups is the story that I wish to expand on today. I am extremely concerned with what I have witnessed in some FEI (world standard) classes from 1.20m and up and I wonder what the future is for the young course designers of today. There is a ground swell of CDs today that are using the time allowed and illegal (shallow) jump cups to attain good results in various classes. Riders are vocal in speaking out against the aggressive time allowed being used in many major and lesser classes. Hopefully, course designers who use this tactic will see the light and lighten up to a fair level.
Jump cups have improved over the years and we have several manufacturers that produce a good product. The keyhole racking and the plastic cup provide the best way to place the jumping pole or plank at the required heights. The safety cup and cuff (the most significant advance for the safety of both horse and rider in the long history of our sport) must be used in all jumping events.
The accepted minimum depth of a cup used on the top of an obstacle is 18mm. Most venues use the 20mm cup shown in photo 3, though it is not ideal as it is a little too deep. Course designers working these events get someone to shave the edges away to achieve a shallower depth. This task is done by hand and usually in a hurry and does not meet any fair standard for the competitor.
The next photo shows a properly manufactured 18mm jump cup (Caro product) and is colour coded yellow. This is the only way to have and use jump cups. In comparison, the handmade shaved cup is total garbage, but used all the time.
The use of extreme shaving is not right and needs to be addressed by the FEI and all national federations. This is not to say that properly manufactured cups that are less than 18mm don’t have a good use in some situations, but the depth should be recognized and colour coded so riders, trainers, stewards, and, most of all, juries, know the difference. No course designer should be permitted to use unauthorised cups. Cups that have been used in Eastern Canada this year and used a lot are some of the most extreme I have seen.
One can see that the jump with the black cup has very little room for a rub of any sort and the photo with the level shows that one side is not equal to the other. Depending on which side of the jump the cup is placed, one rub will not be equal to the other.
Course design is a difficult and demanding art and should involve a course designer’s knowledge of the sport, the knowledge of the competitors and their horses, and an imagination that will create a competitive course that involves a test that some will pass and others will fail. They should not use unfair tactics that will create false results and diminish the competition. In one of the world’s great seasonal venues (WEF, Wellington, FL) the 18mm yellow coded (Caro) cups were used exclusively from week one to week 12 and we had maybe the best 12 weeks of show jumping in a long time. At this venue with the large number of entries in many of the classes offered there is a concern that with the numbers of entries, the quality of horse (better every year) and the quality of the riders (amazing) and the class designation there needs to be something extra for a course designer to use to create a competitive class. The use of recognized shallow, colour coded cups could be accepted. I think that the colour coding shows everyone where and how the cups are being used.
How many levels of shallow cups should we recognize? How shallow should the legal limit be? I think to start we should have one and that it should be 15mm. However the depth is something for the jumping committee to decide upon and use the recognized manufactures to produce and be available for purchase by all venues. I have taken some time to shave a cup from 18mm to 15mm and colour it in a very distinctive colour. It is level on both sides. It is only an example and I will show it to you in comparison with the 18mm and the 20mm cup.
I think that the use of the shaved cup is having a major impact in course design today. It needs to be addressed at the highest level and needs to be controlled to prevent our sport becoming more about an overly aggressive time allowed and jumps that fall too easily. Young course designers need to develop their skills with the standard tools of the art and depend less on gimmicks. Jury members that walk the course inspection should be able to recognize shaved cups and request that they be replaced before the class begins. Colour coding would help in that regard. If a colour coded cup is found to be altered then the course designer should expect to be disciplined in some manner. Most of my professional life I have been a course designer and am proud of the work that I have done. When I speak with young course designers today I come away with a feeling that they want success quickly and I am sure that we all do, but time needs to be spent learning the craft and that means failure as well as success. In the last 10 months we have seen success and failure at the highest level of course design. In million dollar classes we have seen too many clean and too few clean. We have seen great course design at the young riders championships, WEF (12 weeks) Deerridge, Caledon Equestrian Park, Thunderbird, Angelstone and I am sure there are others.
Change has to begin somewhere and with the cup issue the change has to come from the Federations and, in the meantime, it has to come from the riders. If you walk a course that is using a great number of these illegal cups you must go to the president of the jury and get them replaced. If the use of these extreme cups continues there is one big loser and that is the horse because if they have a few cheap rails this week then what happens before next week? We need some new rules regarding depth of jump cups and colour coding of all legal cups. Stand up for your sport.
I am Dave Ballard.