British Olympic Association (BOA) chief executive Simon Clegg is urging the government to invest more into the development of “four-legged” athletes.
Only hours before the 22 March delivery of Chancellor Gordon Brown’s 10th budget — earmarking a further £300m for training of top athletes in the lead-up to London 2012 — Mr Clegg told delegates at the National Equine Forum that the government should adopt the same attitude to funding potential Olympic horses as two-legged athletes.
“We need to make sure British athletes are riding British-bred horses,” said Mr Clegg, later adding that he would like to see greater resources channelled into the British Equestrian Federation’s (BEF) breeding programme.
“We need a strategy so that, come 2012, the best Olympic horses are available to our riders and the contribution of horse owners is recognised.”
Mr Clegg told delegates that, in terms of medals, event riders were propping up equestrian performance. He reminded them that Olympic success decides UK Sport funding.
“I look forward to seeing more success in show jumping and dressage in the Olympics,” he added.
Mr Clegg told H&H he strongly believed part of the £300m budget should be invested in horsepower. He mooted a system whereby owners of horses with Olympic potential could be contracted to keep them available for British riders.
BEF chief executive Andrew Finding said that while he supported Mr Clegg’s call for extra funding for Olympic-level horses, the BEF preferred a voluntary relationship with owners.
Mr Finding said he planned to seek increased government funding for the body’s equine development programme, which this year stands at £101,606.
BEF performance manager Will Connell said UK Sport would provide details of 2012 award offers to each equestrian Olympic discipline by 5 April, adding that he would look at extending support for horses and owners — not just riders. Both Mr Connell and Mr Finding acknowledged Britain’s success in eventing underpins equestrian funding at present, but stressed finding the right horse power is vital in the other disciplines.
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