Opinion

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The British teams’ performance at the youth European championships was our only real international success story of 2017. And it’s no co-incidence that nearly all those high achieving squad members came from professional yards. It’s that attention to detail that makes all the difference.

Indeed, it’s time BS started listening to the pros to learn what’s needed to nurture these young riders to become the top competitors of tomorrow. I’ll give you an example of how this isn’t happening…

Peter Charles and I were at Cherwell Show for a last run before our respective offspring jumped at the youth Europeans. With classes only up to 1.30m, we asked if they could put on a 1.40m — Pete even offered to sponsor it. No problem, said Cherwell’s organisers, but you’ll need to get permission from the BS area development officer.

When I asked why, I was told it was because Pyecombe had a big show on, so Cherwell wasn’t allowed to run a 1.40m simultaneously unless authorised.

There was no way we were going to make the seven hour round trip in a horsebox to Sussex. And, anyway, Pyecombe was ram-packed with entries — and quite rightly so after all the money they’ve spent on upgrades.

The upshot was permission wasn’t given to run a 1.40m at Cherwell. So I suggest to BS that if their development officers don’t have the power to make decisions for the good of show jumping, they need to find a better system.

Let’s compare this restrictive practice with France which has dozens of international shows, with many clashing. Then let’s look at the recent big, prestigious grand prix of Paris where five French riders — excluding Kevin Staut — jumped clear rounds.

And now let’s move onto Olympia’s World Cup, where we only had one clear from that great combination of Scott Brash and Ursula, who eventually finished second. Scott is now the only British rider in the world’s top 30 (he’s 14th). That’s this country’s worst ranking position since 1978 — 40 years ago.

Keep the faith

When our sons Will and Olli got home from a successful trip to Arena UK, we went through all their classes on Apple TV which allows videos taken on a phone to be played on a TV. It’s amazing how much more you can see on a big screen!

After dissecting every round, we settled down to watch MOTD. During Manchester United vs Manchester City, I remarked to Will that United’s goalkeeper David de Gea is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Will, replied: “But Dad, don’t you remember when [former Manchester United manager] Alex Ferguson first signed him, he was making so many mistakes that everyone said he should be dropped?”

So my first point is that when you buy a talented young horse, it can make mistakes. But you must keep the faith — like Alex Ferguson did with de Gea — and resist being influenced by those who might be telling you different.

My second point is that since I retired from riding, I’ve learnt as much if not more from watching the best trainers in other sports. Being a top manager or trainer is something we all aspire to — and the greatest of them all was Alex Ferguson.

Ref Horse & Hound; 28 December 2017