Showjumping: the state of the sport

  • It’s likely that British Showjumping (BS) would term the past 12 months its annus horribilis.

    The sudden departure of chief executive Diana Cornish (news, 25 March, 2010) was followed by a stormy annual general meeting and an equally unsettled extraordinary general meeting, where plans to reduce the number of board members were scuppered.

    As Iain Graham stepped up to the plate as chief executive, changes included the appointment of regional development officers (RDOs) and the reduction of the association’s regions from seven to six.

    In his efforts to explain the proposed changes, Mr Graham toured the country, telling members at regional meetings why they were necessary to take BS forward. From the outside, it all seemed fairly positive, but some meetings proved quite volatile — all was not well in British showjumping.

    Add to this the worst winter on record and rapidly rising costs putting immense pressure on competitors’ finances and the result was many centres reporting a decrease in entries, particularly at pony level, and a slide in BS membership numbers.

    So how do we resuscitate the sport?

    Work in progress — new initiatives

    • BS is exploring the possibility of a grass-roots membership, with league points and a championship at the lower level. Funding from Sport England should help bring in more members and will provide discounted training for non-members by BS-accredited trainers at recognised venues
    • Subsidised “Get back into training”, courtesy of County Sports Partnerships’ funding, is being looked at to increase the confidence of past members to rejoin the association
    • A five-star award scheme, supported by NAF to promote rider proficiency
    • Development officer Gill Perkins and area representatives from Wales are running a mini-major series, where Pony Club members are paired with a showjumper. There will be nine qualifying rounds and a final at Pembroke Show
    • Non-members can attend three junior training academies before becoming BS members
    • The main remit of the development officers is to increase membership, often by giving out free tickets to ride worth £6 at unaffiliated fixtures, ensuring training opportunities for all members and working with centres

      For the full article on the state of showjumping, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (31 March, 2011)

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