Graham Fletcher: Sometimes you need a bit of luck *H&H VIP*

Opinion

After last year’s unbelievable medal haul for Great Britain at the young rider and junior Europeans, a lot was expected at last weekend’s championships in Zuidwolde, Netherlands.

Sadly they failed to deliver; the exception being Britain’s children-on-horses team of Tabitha Kyle, Amelie Gachoud, Chloe Lemieux and Aimee Jones, who came home with a bronze. Very well done to them.

The under-21 team of young riders was not as strong as last year’s. However, it was good to see Joe Stockdale, the squad’s rookie, jump some very solid rounds. Joe recently chose riding over cricket as a career, and I’m sure he will now feel it’s the correct decision.

Another of this team with a very difficult choice to make is Jodie Hall-McAteer, who finished school last year with three A*s at A level before taking a year out to ride. Jodie, who’s already had great form on senior British teams, has been offered a place at Bristol University so now has a difficult dilemma about which path to follow. Sometimes life really can be tough for the young…

Back to Zuidwolde, after jumping clear in the first two rounds, my son Will was the only Brit left with a realistic individual medal chance. But in the third round, over a very big and technical course, he had the first fence down only to jump immaculately and clear after that. Sometimes, when it’s down to such fine margins, you just need luck on your side.

Last year, our juniors won team silver and my son Olli the individual silver. This time, the team was every bit as strong and four times out of five would have come back with a medal. Sienna Charles, Oliver  Tuff, Jack Whitaker and Olli all rode well. In fact, across 12 rounds of jumping, four faults was their worst score; but to win medals you need to jump clear rounds — and they just didn’t jump enough of them.

I’ve always admired Dutch efficiency, but this show had everybody confused as to why the juniors were jumped in the second ring, which was far too small. The main arena here is top class and the courses were befitting of a championship; whereas although the second ring might be OK to jump a few novices, it was never big enough to be a championship arena.

At a meeting of chef d’equipes, all were united in trying to get it changed. But the show wouldn’t reconsider.

Why they had to jump the speed leg on the Wednesday and both rounds of the team competition on the Friday in the second ring, when on both occasions there was nothing on in the main ring, God only knows — and I’m sure even he was scratching his head.

Recognising effort

Before going to the Europeans, I had a day at the Great Yorkshire. I’ve never seen the arenas and ground as good, the jumps as pristine and modern, and the prize money was better than you get at many two star FEI shows. I just wish British Showjumping was more supportive of all the hard work.

In fact, the whole showground looked superb. When even the ice cream vans have flower beds around them, you recognise the effort.

Congratulations to show director Charles Mills and his team. In this increasingly fractious and bewildering country of ours, your endeavours made the whole showground seem like an oasis of tranquillity.

Ref Horse & Hound; 18 July 2019