Graham Fletcher: I urge our executive to be braver *H&H VIP*

Opinion

It was early February when the wagon-train left our yard for Vilamoura, Portugal. It’s always going to be hectic taking 15 horses, but at the end of the third week it’s still running smoothly — thanks more to the organisational skills of my wife Tina than to me.

She even found time to take a client to see a really nice seven-year-old that was competing on the Sunshine Tour running concurrently in Spain. It was interesting to hear Tina’s comparison of the tours, too.

Spain was stunning with 18 rings, including eight superb grass-on-sand arenas with excellent footing. Tina said it reminded her of shows in Wellington, Florida — but bigger.

Vilamoura is more rustic with relaxed Portuguese charm as really good crowds enjoy food and wine in the sunshine.

However, the standard of jumping and competition is every bit as high.

Millie Allen’s father Peter, on a first visit here, was surprised. He’d just come from Oliva Nova, Spain, and said Vilamoura was more testing.

From what I’ve seen, many British riders are now so totally preoccupied with the tours that they hardly compete in the UK. And not only those jumping in ranking classes; they’re also making the most of the six- and seven-year-old and amateur classes.

Still time for an overhaul?

At this point, I’d like to revisit an end-of-season 2017 British Showjumping (BS) committee meeting. Internationally, things had gone badly, so the likes of Tim Stockdale, Nick Skelton and I were invited to express our opinions.

“Skelly” told that committee that our whole system needed overhauling and redefining. Amateurs and professionals should be split, he said, with the pros paying a larger registration fee to help fund facilities and classes at our national centre shows.

The idea clearly represented too big an upheaval for the present BS management and was duly kicked into the long grass.

A mismatch of forgotten times

However, time is proving Skelly absolutely right. Of course, amateur and weekend riders need looking after and providing with the right classes.

But the sport of today bears no comparison to what it was even three or four years ago.

Our present system may be very fair and democratic, but I urge our executive to be braver and more forward thinking. Otherwise, we’re going to be totally left behind by the rest of the world.

Having experienced the tours — with everything from ranking classes to amateurs having fun on “seen-it-done-it” horses — it’s obvious that Britain’s system is a mismatch of forgotten times, which is not pleasing anybody.

Ref Horse & Hound; 7 March 2019