Opinion

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The British Dressage winter championships at Hartpury was a great show, but it struck me that something was missing. It took me a little bit of time to work out what it was. Where were all the Team GBR Land Rovers? They’ve been a familiar sight at all our major championships over the past 10 years or so.

Apart from the obvious question of how are all our trainers and officials getting about — do they have to use their own vehicles, have they all had to buy a bike or even resort to Shanks’ Pony — these vehicles have provided a great team presence and made our championships special for that reason. So why was this championship, notable for the presence of up-and-coming and wannabe team members, lacking this special touch?

Trying to find out via a visit to the Equestrian Team GBR website left me even more curious. Under the Official Suppliers tab there is only one name left, Toggi. So where have all the other sponsors who have supported us through the last Olympic cycle vanished to? It’s great that NAF recently signed up to sponsor our under-21 teams for the next three years, and sponsored the winter championships under their Five Star brand banner, but what about the senior teams? Dodson & Horrell, NuuMed, Tagg Equestrian, as well as Land Rover and NAF, all feature in the World Class brochure produced in 2014 which is linked on the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) World Class page. So where are they now?

Does this indicate that a major sponsorship deal is in the offing? BEF chief executive Clare Salmon was appointed for her commercial background, so let’s hope this is the case. Even if it is, however, would it not have been better to take the existing loyal sponsors forward and all work together? Surely there is room for everyone, and I hope we’re looking after our own.

While I’m no sponsorship expert, to close the door on an existing supporter surely seems madness in today’s economic climate. Also, one very important point is, if they have gone, shouldn’t the BEF have publicly thanked these sponsors and also given us riders the opportunity to thank those who have supported our teams abroad for their years of dedication? We should have been told and it seems a very cloak-and-dagger situation, which cannot be healthy.

…And another ‘where is’?

Here we are less than four months away from the year’s major championship, the Europeans in Gothenburg, and while our former performance manager, the incomparable Dickie Waygood, is in his fifth month doing the job for eventing, with new riders trying to get onto the dressage team after Valegro’s retirement and Orthilia’s sale, this would have been a crucial time to bond a new team together.

I hope our new performance manager comes with the people skills and leadership qualities to continue taking the team along the medal path but, as this is going to be very difficult to fulfil, I do think we’ve lost vital time. Knowing some of the applicants I hope the decision is made soon and for the right reasons.

Ref Horse & Hound; 11 May 2017