Opinion

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There have been many articles recently from people who aren’t exactly happy about the way the sport of showjumping is going in Britain and I’d guess 99% of us agree with much of what has been said. So what can we do — or rather should British Showjumping (BS) do — to get the sport moving in the right direction?

Most of our top riders rarely compete at home these days. I don’t blame them because they have to make a living and overseas is where the big prize money is on offer. But what about the thousands who stay here and produce the horses the big names later take on?

I propose that BS should reinstate a ranking list based on results on our national circuit only. They could combine the gold and silver leagues, which would also help make them easier to understand. At the end of the season, the top six riders on the list would be invited to jump in the international classes at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

The FEI’s new rules say that at least 20% of riders at international shows should be from the host nation, so this six would be part of that percentage. As well as helping our national sport, this would hopefully encourage more people to compete on the county circuit, which has got to be a good thing.

These same riders often produce horses, but at the moment the dates for the second rounds make absolutely no sense, as they start far too early. To give young horses enough time to learn their job properly, HOYS qualifiers should be held later on in the year, and definitely not before July. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but that would be a positive step towards making those series age classes.

Focus on venues

As well as helping riders, BS must focus on venues. It’s absolutely vital that these provide the best possible facilities, especially when it comes to surfaces. There have been plenty of new venues over the past few years, but some may have started running shows before they’ve had planning permission to run public events. That’s something BS and British Dressage need to check before allowing affiliated shows and is a job for the RDOs (Regional Development Officers).

Other centres have been operating for many years without much support from the governing body. Perhaps the major qualifiers should go to those that run the indoor and outdoor shows throughout the year that are vital to keep the sport going.

And finally, social media has revolutionised how we communicate and is a vital tool for show organisers to promote their businesses. But can I please ask riders to stop and think before using it to criticise venues? If your complaint’s justified, take it to the organisers, but if you’ve not had the results you wanted, it’s all too easy to get on Facebook and damage someone’s livelihood. If it happens too often, some centres could stop running shows altogether and that’s something none of us want to see.

Ref Horse & Hound; 1 February 2018