It was great to spend January in New Zealand — it splits the English winter really well. I came back to find all the horses in good form. The boys and girls here have done a brilliant job getting them ready for me.
The big news recently has been the launch of two CIC3* series: the Shearwater Insurance Tri-Star Grand Slam, and the £350,000 Event Rider Masters. I’ve been involved with the latter from the outset; it goes back about three years to when we riders really began to voice our opinions about the lack of prize money.
Di Brunsden, who co-owns my four-star horse Leonidas II, started to put something together and it has grown from there. Alice Fox-Pitt got involved, and she bought in Michael Skinner and Terri Miller, among others.
They are all high-profile people whose time is valuable, and they’ve done this for no reward. No one else has been able to pull something like this off, so fair play to them.
Congratulations also to Christopher and Lisa Stone for having the foresight and courage to back this exciting venture. It hasn’t been easy; there have been many hurdles, some from quite surprising places.
We’ve never before had the opportunity to compete for such substantial prize money at this level on a regular basis. I think these two CIC3* series are the most exciting things to happen in eventing for a long time.
The sport has modified itself over the years, and fundamentally doesn’t need to change any more. But what hasn’t changed is how it is presented to the public, which needs modernising to bring it into line with other sports.
I first started riding for Di, and her husband Peter Cattell, in 2010. They rang me to ask if I would ride Major Milestone, who was qualified for Burghley. I suggested they brought him to my yard, where I had a sit on him — and said ‘no thanks!’.
But later I started thinking — I had no four-star horses at that time, and there was a Burghley ride going begging. So I said I’d give it a go.
He was a very difficult horse, but we did an open novice, the CIC3* at Barbury and an advanced, and then finished 11th at Burghley, and Di and Peter have been great owners of mine ever since.
Keeping our integrity
I was lucky enough to attend a meeting in London recently about the potential changes in the format of eventing for the Olympics. There were representatives of 14 or 15 different nations there.
What came out of the meeting was that everyone wants eventing to stay in the Olympics, but not to sacrifice the sport in the process. The suggestion of three rather than four riders per team was not popular; the risk of very few nations finishing the competition is not feasible.
I believe the FEI had a subsequent meeting, but I haven’t heard the results yet.
The FEI has done a good job, because it has galvanised countries into action. In the past some things have slipped through unnoticed. Now it has to listen and make informed choices. We accept that “tweaks” may have to be made, but not at the risk of the sport’s integrity.
Ref: Horse & Hound’ 10 March 2016