The British aim for Nations Cups this season was to give partnerships a chance to develop, with the World Equestrian Games (WEG) and qualification for the 2020 Olympics our primary target.
If someone had asked at the beginning if I’d be happy with sixth in the league, I’d have said yes as the goal was to stay in division one. Qualification for the Barcelona final is a bonus.
WEG remains the priority over Barcelona in terms of selection and we will announce the championship team soon.
We’re in a period of developing partnerships and horsepower. I go to Nations Cups nurturing the spirit to win and to empower confidence, but it’s very difficult to beat much more experienced teams.
A good rule of thumb is that six clears wins a Nations Cup. We actually had five at our first counting fixture in St. Gallen and we ended up fifth! At Rotterdam, we had two clears and five four-fault performances. They were super rounds, but 16 faults isn’t a competitive team score.
Horses for the future
It’s been superb to see how Amanda Derbyshire’s horses have developed since she arrived from Florida. Luibanta BH is the most experienced, but still only a 10-year-old. Cornwall BH and Roulette BH are also fantastic horses for the future.
Holly Smith’s Hearts Destiny is nine and very inexperienced, but he’s jumped double clears in Linz and St. Gallen and had just four faults at Hickstead and Dublin. William Funnell’s Billy Buckingham started the season late and Dublin was only his fifth show since being here last year. He’s strengthened up since then, but the atmosphere got to him a little in the first round.
William was trying to make the time — a challenge for this horse — and it’s a work in progress to speed up without rushing the horse out of his rhythm and losing his jump. But he jumps clear rounds.
Alexandra Thornton made her debut on a British team in 2012 and has come back to team duty with good performances in demanding venues.
Looking forward, new young rider European champion Harry Charles will jump his second senior Nations Cup in Gijon. He has strong backing from his father Peter and a good string of horses which he has showcased incredibly well. Amy Inglis is another who has been consistent over the past few years and there is a lot of experience in her family.
Nations Cup selection nowadays is very different to when I was riding. The calendar is so full — there are more than 100 five-star competitions alone. It’s an old saying that horses only have so many jumps in them, but you have to respect that and planning is key in preparing for Nations Cups or championships.
I start the year with a squad on paper, but you must keep an open mind because horses and partnerships develop at different stages. We’ve managed to get a lot more riders into shows this year and I get the impression organisers are looking out for new riders.
The winter will be about building our team in the wider sense. We have fantastic support from owners, but we must keep building to give our youth horsepower. The quality of horses competing today is extraordinary and we want to see our riders on a level playing field.
Ref Horse & Hound; 16 August 2018