As the UK prepares to leave Europe, British showjumping needs to do the reverse and move closer to the continental model.
Myself and many others in the sport are beginning 2017 by pushing for a strategy to improve our national system by making it more akin to Europe’s.
The key to that is to offer what all our top and upcoming riders want — opportunities to acquire sufficient FEI rankings points to get high enough on the computer list to be eligible for the better international shows.
To make this happen, we want more British shows to be allowed to run FEI rankings classes. To keep any additional costs manageable, these classes could be run at the end of existing show schedules, as often happens in the US and parts of Europe.
We already have some fantastic venues thanks to our county shows, where ready-made audiences would add to the atmosphere.
There was a time when these shows were the envy of Europe. But now, following the demise of our British computer list, any winnings from county shows mean nothing as far as the FEI list is concerned.
Allowing our domestic shows to run a rankings class on their last day would, I believe, revolutionise British showjumping.
It’s easily achievable, too. For example, the Great Yorkshire has £26,000 prize money on its last day, so could immediately fulfil the FEI’s criteria to become a rankings class.
To me, it would be a win-win situation. British riders wouldn’t have to keep travelling to Europe to get rankings points. Leading course-designer Bob Ellis, who’s right behind it, says it would improve our national course building standards. Our judges would get extra international experience, and our county shows would attract more top riders.
The more you think about it, the more you wonder why we haven’t done it before.
My fellow H&H columnists Peter Charles and Will Funnell are supporters too, as is every other rider I’ve spoken to. British team manager Di Lampard thinks it would be good for riders. British Showjumping (BS) chief executive Iain Graham also tells me he would welcome such a scheme, and says BS has already started looking into the costings and practicalities of how it could work.
It’s worth remembering that when I started my career — and the same can be said for John and Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton — if your form was good nationally, you could get into all our major shows.
Now, unless younger riders have the money, the time and willingness to sacrifice their education to go on foreign tours, they won’t be able to get a foothold into the system.
So let’s take down the barriers, adopt this system and produce some top horses and riders. Because as well as we’ve done at the last two Olympics, let’s not kid ourselves — we have a very threadbare international squad to go into battle for 2017.
I’m sure many of you have been as enthralled by David Attenborough’s latest Planet Earth TV series as I have.
While watching one episode with my wife Tina, I came up with what I thought was a startling revelation.
“Isn’t it amazing how throughout the animal and bird kingdoms, carnivores are so much more competitive and aggressive than plant-eating herbivores,” I observed.
“Um,” responded Tina, “maybe we should think about cutting meat out of your diet…”
Ref Horse & Hound; 12 January 2017