Olympic gold medal winning showjumpers Scott Brash and Ben Maher are on the British squad for next month’s European Championships — but the anchorman of the London 2012 team, Nick Skelton, is missing from the line-up.

It’s a big surprise, given that Nick has been on top form recently — including winning the prestigious grand prix at Aachen with Big Star (pictured below).

A subsequent statement from the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) said Nick “wasn’t getting any younger” and that Rio 2016 was the main target for him and Big Star.

We have to look after Nick and Big Star as they have a big part to play for Team GB to first qualify for Rio and then to defend our Olympic title in 2016,” said performance manager Rob Hoekstra.

Nick Skelton and Big Star win Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen

Nick added:  “After much consideration and discussion with Gary, Beverley [Widdowson, owners] and Rob, I feel that it is in the best interest for Big Star to give him a year off from a Championship. It is our goal to try and reach Rio 2016 and conservative management will only help to this cause”.

On the team for the Europeans Scott Brash (Hello Sanctos) and Ben Maher (Cella) will be joined by William Funnell (Billy Congo), Robert Smith (Voila IV) and Michael Whitaker (Viking V).

Rob Hoekstra is upbeat about his squad for Denmark.

“I think it’s a very exciting team, particularly as we have three horses heading to a Championship for the first time,” he said

“The squad have a lot of clear rounds between them and we have high hopes of doing well at this year’s Championships.”

William Funnell said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be selected with Billy Congo. The fact that he’s home-bred and produced makes it all the more special.”

William Funnell riding Billy Congo in Cannes GCT

And Robert Smith added: “I’m really pleased. I always knew when I saw Voila 12 months ago, that she had the potential to be a Championship horse and it’s very satisfying to see her selected.”

The Showjumping European Championships takes place in Denmark next month (20-24 August).

For more see next week’s issue of H&H magazine, out 18 July.