Is the prospect of medals slipping down the priority for riders?
Britain’s showjumping team suffered a blow this week when it was revealed that Scott Brash’s top horse Hello Sanctos (pictured) would not be available for next month’s European Championships (11-23 August).
The 13-year-old gelding, owned by Lord and Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham, has been a mainstay of championship teams for the past few years — being part of the gold medal-winning quartet at both London 2012 and at the 2013 Europeans.
However, Scott told H&H it has been decided it is “not in the horse’s interest” to put him forward for selection.
Hello Sanctos’ absence could have a huge impact on the country’s chances to qualify for next year’s Olympics.
As Britain missed out on a medal at last summer’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) — due to horse injury and poor results — the team must finish in the top three of unqualified countries at the Europeans to secure their position in Rio.
“It is very disappointing not to have Sanctos,” the British Equestrian Federation’s world class performance manager Di Lampard told H&H.
“Hello Sanctos has now competed in three championships and, unfortunately for everyone, is not getting any younger,” he said.
The decision, he added, was to give the horse the “best chance of being able to compete at a second Olympics, if the opportunity arose”.
“It is felt that the amount of jumping required over a short period of time in a championship would not be in the best interest of the horse this year,” he said.
Scott and Sanctos now head to Calgary to the final leg of the Rolex Grand Slam at Spruce Meadows (9-13 September).
Having won two of the three legs already this year (Geneva and Aachen) Scott merely has to show up to collect the €500,000 (£360,000) prize. Should he win, he’ll pick up the €1million (£720,000) bonus.
“Spruce Meadows comes soon after the Europeans and it would not be fair on the horse to compete in both competitions,” he added.
“The media coverage which this will generate will be in the best interest of British sport.”
William Funnell in his comment agrees that with the “tremendous preparation a championship entails” the horse might not be able to do both shows.
He added: “You can understand saving a horse for the money.”
With substantial prize funds at shows such as the grand slam and the Global Champions Tour (GCT) is debate escalating over where to ride?
Are top riders and horses being spread too thinly?
In 2013, as the GCT circuit expanded, luring the world’s best combinations to compete for mammoth prize money, some questioned whether the traditional Nations Cups could thrive alongside it.
That year’s European Championships also had some notable combinations missing from teams, many of whom contested GCT shows.
At the time, the then team manager Rob Hoekstra said: “The time has probably come when Britain must sit down and decide what it wants to be — a country of GCT riders or the Nations Cup winner.”
Scott Brash hasn’t jumped on a Nations Cup team this season, with his 2015 debut coming next month in Dublin.
With GCT shows being less exacting on horses, and with more money on offer not surprising that riders are choosing to save their horses. To succeed you need at least two top horses, say the riders.
So is it time for the FEI to rethink the way the Nations Cup is formatted? This is something Graham Fletcher called for in his comment in December, labelling the series a “sinking ship”.