Opinion

Showjumping in Britain needs a major shake-up.

I don’t blame British Showjumping, which chased extra members at the lower end to gain funding from World Class and UK Sport, but apart from the 10 top riders, everyone else — particularly the producers — has been sidelined and left with no alternative but to compete abroad if they want horses to progress.

We should adopt the age and height system used in other countries. OK, it would be a big change all at once, but the idea is so simple that it would be easy for everyone to understand. At the moment, there are so many classes, qualifications and leagues that no one knows the rules — and those change all the time too.

What I propose is four height and age classes. The British novice would be restricted to four-year-olds, who would qualify for second rounds through four double clears. The class would be combined with a 90cm competition open to all ages and grades.

The same would apply to discovery, which would be restricted to five-year-olds and combined with a 1m open class, then we could have the newcomers for six-year-olds with a 1.10m open and the Foxhunter as a seven-year-old class combined with a 1.20m open.

Amateur riders could qualify for their own championships by jumping four double clears in one of the height classes. Using this system would also mean there would be no need to categorise horses as grade A, Band C.

Rankings revolution

At the same time, we need a proper rider ranking list. We should either include every international result or, even better, base the list on performances in national competitions only. Riders would get five ranking points for every double clear up to 1.10m, 10 points for classes between 1.10m and 1.30m and 15 for classes over 1.30m.

Then at the Horse of the Year Show, the top four gold league riders would be invited to jump in the international classes and in place of the grade C final, we could hold a national championship open to the top 30 on the gold league.

This may sound radical, but we need to do something to get our sport back to where it should be. The county show circuit is its backbone and because so many people are abroad, the numbers are dwindling, centres are struggling to make ends meet and as a show organiser, I can vouch for the fact that category one shows aimed at amateurs don’t pay.

Another problem is the rates bill for large venues compared with what I call the “mother and daughter centres”, which don’t have comparable facilities. If we aren’t careful, those will be all that are left.

We need to do something in a hurry to encourage riders to stay in this country and help them produce the next generation of stars for teams and championships. I can vouch for the fact that funding is a problem.

Maybe having something to aim for would do the trick. Let’s hope so anyway.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 22 June 2017