Britain were once again forced to step up at the last minute to prevent relegation from the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup series.
Heading into the final leg in Dublin last Friday (8 August), Britain were lying in the relegation zone — sitting ninth in the overall standings.
Only the top seven teams from the 10 countries in the top division of the Western European league are eligible for the final in Barcelona in October.
Team GB needed to score maximum points to secure a spot in division one for next year. As it happened, despite finishing second, it was “job done”, as performance manager Rob Hoekstra put it.
Britain was saved from relegation as the winners, USA, were there on invitation and did not score points.
Britain’s Joe Clee (Utamaro D’Ecaussines), Spencer Roe (Wonder Why), Scott Brash (Hello Sanctos) and Ben Maher (Cella) put in a strong performance to ensure Britain ended the series in sixth place.
“They were under a lot of pressure, but they all gave great performances,” said Rob Hoekstra.
Joe Clee added: “We would have loved to have won, but if you’d said to me in the morning that we’d be saved from relegation, I’d have settled for that.”
Ukraine was the country to fall to division two. However, Ireland must now wait for the results of division two countries in the Barcelona final before learning its fate for 2015.
Riders and fans are asking how the British team were in this position — struggling to qualify — for the second year running.
“The question remains, why did we end up in a situation where so much was determined by our performance in Dublin?” asks William Funnell in his comment in this week’s issue on p48 (14 August).
“In hindsight, Rob Hoekstra should have used an earlier point-scoring round instead of Dublin because it made a complete debacle of Hickstead — to not send our best riders on their best horses to our home Nations Cup was a very poor decision if we’re trying to promote showjumping in this country.”
But Rob maintains that Britain does not have the strength in depth to consistently send out the top players.
“I don’t think it would have made a huge difference if we’d been relegated into division two — we’d still have had invitations to jump in the top league, you’ve always got to look at these things in a positive way,” he said.
“From our own point of view it’s nice to stay up. We’ve proved that we’re very strong when we field our best team, but I can’t use my strongest team all of the time or we’d have nothing left for the championships.”
A lack of horse power
Last year H&H asked whether showjumpers were turning their backs on the Nations Cup series, shunning it for the lucrative Global Champions Tour.
“There is so much more pressure from riders wanting to do the Global Champions Tour. The time has probably come when Britain must sit down and decide which it wants to be — a country of GCT riders, or Nations Cup riders?” Rob said at the time.
But this year the team manager cites the lack of horse power for poor performances.
Britain didn’t field a team at the prestigious Aachen show in July due to being “extremely short of championship horses”, said Rob, who said he was saving the top string for the World Equestrian Games (WEG).
“We’re still very short of horses so I have to be very careful about how many times I use the top guys,” he added. “The end of the season is when you need them to win prizes.”
Don’t miss the full Dublin Horse Show report, plus interview with Spencer Roe, in the current issue of H&H (14 August).