I’ve just packed off nine horses for a tour in Mijas, Spain — how times have changed since the first Sunshine Tour kicked off in the mid-1990s.Originally, there were just the spring tours designed to get horses started outside early in the season and to escape the winter blues.
Now, because the facilities are absolutely beautiful, the venues at Oliva Nova, Mijas and Vilamoura are all trying to maximise their potential and have started autumn tours.
Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) used to mark the end of the outdoor and beginning of the indoor season, but the tour in Mijas won’t end until the third week of November. The attraction of this option is that our indoor shows are fading out, especially in the south. At my most local show centre, the ground conditions have been so poor that we haven’t competed there for more than a year.
With the Hand now closed, our next nearest venues are Addington — which is excellent — or Arena UK, Liverpool, which is about five hours away.
The whole of England is underserved by indoor venues and we are greatly behind Europe in this regard. We have a healthy outdoor national circuit but we are lacking indoor facilities.
This is also why so many of our riders now go abroad in the autumn to extend their outdoor season. With the price of horses now escalating, people need to showcase their talents in world-class arenas.
Looking to Europe
Following on from William Funnell’s comment last week (20 October) about the lack of a young rider championship at HOYS — although I am told discussions are in place for next year — it may be worth looking at the structures in place in Europe.
France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium always make sure there are opportunities for young riders to compete at three, four and five-star level. No schedule should be approved by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) unless we have four of our up-and-coming young riders invited separately to the show.
Fortunately, there are some fantastic schemes in place, such as the one run by the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC). They invite selected riders, provide them with free training and secure places for them at four or five (at least) of the world’s top shows.
One beneficiary of this scheme is 21-year-old Emma O’Dwyer, a rider I train. She recently returned from Lausanne’s five-star grand prix, where she was second — a result that would have been impossible had she tried to get in under the British system. This clearly shows we need to do more to help.
Unfortunately for Emma, her horse now needs to be sold to dissolve the owners’ partnership. This is really where our priorities should lie — in forming clubs and syndicates to keep horses like this for riders such as Emma. Not forever, but until they can achieve a few years’ experience at the top.
With the right business people behind such schemes, they would work, with the risk spread over three or four horses in the group.
Ref Horse & Hound; 27 October 2016