Ten to 15 years ago, Britain would have had five riders in the World Cup Final. This year, we didn’t have a single representative. When the top two places go to Switzerland, and a nation the size of Belgium can field four combinations, you have to conclude that we have lost our strength in depth.
This year’s first Nations Cups will be a case in point — I think Di Lampard won’t mind me saying that she faces a predicament. My son Harry has his first call up of the year for La Baule, France, where the other team members have been provisionally named as Holly Smith, William Funnell and James Wilson.
It’s great James and Harry have been given opportunities, but it looks as though Di has more chance of sorting Brexit than fielding a winning team at a championship — which isn’t to say we won’t be trying.
There will soon be a big emphasis on how we qualify for the Olympics and we need to take a realistic look at the situation.
What is evident is that there is a lack of horse, owner and rider support in the system, and it means we are losing owners to other teams.
There are a lot of Irish riders based in the UK and they have some fabulous owners — Shane Breen (Team Z7), Anthony Condon (John Hales), Billy Twomey (Sue Davies) and Peter Moloney (Princess Haya’s Team Harmony).
At Hickstead’s Nations Cup last year, we watched as a horse owned by John Hales went in and beat the British team into second place. The fact that these owners and sponsors feel what is on offer in Britain isn’t good enough is a poor reflection on the British Equestrian Federation’s (BEF) world class programme and its system.
The Irish have a foothold everywhere — here, America, Belgium and the Netherlands. They know how to set their stall out, they are proactive and they do a good charm offensive.
I have always said the BEF structures the showjumping development unwisely, and if those funds were directed through British Showjumping (BS), they could do a better job.
A step forward
The purchase of BS’ new training facility is a great step for showjumping.
I am sure in the future it will be able to accommodate apprenticeship schemes and perhaps even offer discounted rates for owners to have horses trained by apprentices. We can certainly use it as an asset to showcase our sport.
When we won gold at London 2012, we didn’t have a home where that team could be paraded. We were showcased along with the eventers, dressage and para riders. We could have brought horses, owners and riders together for press calls and promotion.
Instead, we were left to do our own PR rather than having a collective opportunity to promote what we had achieved as a stand-alone discipline. All that can be put into place now.
Investment has also been going on elsewhere and it’s been great to see so many show centres improving their facilities. It can only be a big help to owners and riders — we just need to keep making sure the top-end teams do well so the effects keeps filtering down.
Ref Horse & Hound; 25 April 2019