Shane Breen: We knew it was hot competition *H&H VIP*

Opinion

The new GC Playoffs have proved a fantastic addition to the showjumping calendar — but then what else would you expect from the Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT)? Every venue, every setting, the whole organisation of each competition is superb, and the series goes from strength to strength.

Even in its first year, this Prague show goes in as one of the top five indoor showjumping events in the world. The arena isn’t huge but it’s the perfect size for great jumping, and course-designer Uliano Vezzani builds some of the best tracks.

It was freezing outside but they provided heaters, so the stabling was very snug. The warm-up was about a two-and-a-half minute walk from the main arena but they placed “the last jump”, as it was called, in the small space before you go into the ring and it worked.

Final predictions

My team for the Global Champions League (GCL) super cup — Miami Celtics — were automatically fast-tracked to the semi finals because we finished top-four for the season. Of course it’s disappointing for all the riders and teams who were knocked out in the early stages, but that’s the name of the game — we all knew it was going to be a hot competition with the best horses and riders in the world.

I predicted to our team manager Helena Stormanns before the semi-finals that we’d need a team total of four faults from the three riders of myself, Michael Duffy and Jessica Springsteen to be safely through to the finals, and we’d need to be quick if we were on eight faults. As it turns out, we finished in eighth on 12 faults, but even with only eight faults we wouldn’t have made the cut for the final six on Sunday.

Having three riders in a team for the Playoffs — as opposed to two as was the case for the rest of the season — certainly puts a new slant on things. There’s more pressure, as the bottom line is everybody has to deliver clears. Each team owner obviously has their own agenda as to why they pay to support a GCL team, but they seem to be getting out of it what they want.

I particularly like the concept of each of the three team riders competing one after another and all scores counting — it works for the riders, and for spectators it makes it easy to follow and keep score.

Potential for change

A possible idea that could be introduced to Nations Cups would be to only have three riders, instead of four, competing in the second round. This would speed things up and adds a new element in that it would put pressure on the chef d’equipes as to who they want to drop. I don’t say the FEI has to copy what the GCL is doing, but you can certainly take ideas from everywhere.

One thing I would like to see on the LGCT is the opportunity to bring a third horse. You’re very lucky to have two horses at top level, so it would be nice to bring your young horse to these shows to produce and educate it for the following year.

The prize money at these events is obviously substantial and that filters down through the whole horse industry. It’s a great incentive for breeders to breed the best horses, to give them to the best riders to produce them from an early age, then either sell them or give them to a rider who can put them on the world stage.

Nowadays, even turning down big offers for a horse is justifiable when you have this kind of prize money on offer.

Ref Horse & Hound; 20 December 2018