John and Michael Whitaker to miss Olympia: ‘it won’t be the same without them’ *H&H Plus*

  • Comment by H&H showjumping editor Jennifer Donald

    There will be two notable absentees at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, next week — the legendary showjumping brothers John and Michael Whitaker.

    Both have been regular competitors at this traditional festive spectacular for the past four decades and are as much a part of Olympia as Santa Claus’s appearance in the Christmas finale and the agility dogs going hell-for-leather over the obstacles.


    And who could forget the pair’s superb carol singing relayed on the big screen throughout last year’s show?But this time around, both John and Michael have missed out on qualification through the official rankings and failed to meet the invitation criteria as set by British Showjumping earlier this year.

    “I think I’ve only missed two shows at Olympia in the past 30 or 40 years and both have been through injury,” John told H&H. “So it will be a real shame not to be there this year.

    “I am a bit short of top horses at the moment and I probably wouldn’t have jumped in the World Cup itself, but I’d have been able to be competitive in the other classes — I’d definitely have given them a good shot!”

    Eleven British riders have been allocated a place to compete in the five-star classes at Olympia this year as follows:

    1. The top six combinations in the Nations Cup league (disregarding riders with multiple horses in the top six)
    2. The top three riders from the FEI world ranking list from September (disregarding those already qualified above)
    3. A wild card to be allocated by the performance manager in agreement with the organising committee.
    4. The place of any riders/combinations who cannot accept their invite will be allocated by the organising committee in agreement with British Showjumping and the performance manager.

    At the time of writing, the riders having qualified to represent Great Britain at the show are Emily Moffitt, Amy Inglis, Harry Charles, Ben Maher, William Funnell, Scott Brash, James Wilson, Holly Smith, Laura Renwick, Guy Williams and Robert Whitaker.

    “I do realise I haven’t had the best year, so I wasn’t high enough up the rankings,” said Michael, who has had an injury-plagued season with his top string.

    “But it’s all very well giving riders a slot to thank them for competing on Nations Cup teams this year, but what about the riders who have been riding on teams for the past 30 or 40 years? John more than anyone deserves that.”

    Also missing from this year’s Olympia start lists is William Whitaker, who gave the crowd plenty to cheer about when winning the World Cup qualifier at last year’s show in tremendous style with Utamaro D’Ecaussines.

    So while Michael will be in London in a supporting role to his son Jack, who has qualified for the Under-25 British Championship, it’s fair to say Olympia won’t be the same without two of the sport’s most-loved riders — the heroes to so many aspiring young riders sitting in the grandstands and such an integral part of the show over the years. The absence of the huge cheers both John and Michael receive every time they enter the arena will certainly make the Grand Hall feel a much quieter place.

    “I’m sure they’ll miss seeing Michael and I singing this year more than anything!” laughed John.

    * What do you think about this decision? Let us know by emailing hhletters@ti-media.com inclduing your name and nearest town and your thoughts could be published in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine *

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