Should the ‘final four’ stay? [H&H VIP]

  • Does the “final four” still have a place in modern showjumping? Despite discussion surrounding the controversial horse swapping competition at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) the event looks set to stay, according to the FEI.

    The unique format of the WEG showjumping competition — in which the top four riders swap horses in the final round to decide the medals — has always provoked debate.

    However, this year the competition was praised by both riders and fans, and the FEI has confirmed to H&H that there are no plans as yet to change the format.

    “The final four was very much appreciated by the public and by viewers watching on television,” said an FEI spokesman, adding that there were no plans to change it.

    “However, the FEI Jumping Committee is always prepared to study suggestions coming from the National Federations.”

    In Normandy Dutchman Jeroen Dubbeldam took gold as the only rider to jump four clears. Patrice Delaveau took silver and Beezie Madden bronze, leaving only Rolf-Göran Bengtsson medal-less.

    The riders take their saddles with them as they ride a round on each horse.

    “The four horses in the final, even the oldest one, were fit at the end, and that in itself is proof of the success of this competition,” said course-designer Frederic Cottier.

    Another spectator told H&H: “They had to jump a lot, but they didn’t look tired at all.”

    But there were rumours some riders would prefer not to jump, in order to save their mount for future competition and would rather not have someone else ride their horse.

    But winner Jeroen Dubbeldam said that wasn’t the correct attitude.

    “All our horses are very well-schooled and fit — if you don’t want to do the change then you shouldn’t be here,” he said.

    In last week’s comment Graham Fletcher said the 2014 competition was “as good as anything the sport has to offer” but questioned the fact that the top horses have a lot of jumping to do.

    “In theory it’s not really conducive to modern showjumping,” he told H&H when questioned further.

    “However, it was riveting competition in Normandy and 20,000 fans were enjoying it.”

    Graham added that prize-money could be a factor, with so many opportunities to compete for top money on offer elsewhere.

    “It is a shame that if anyone wants to go the whole way at WEG they are not sufficiently rewarded financially,” he added.

    “If people didn’t want to jump and save their top horses, I’d understand that. A younger horse would handle the competition better, an older one would benefit from a break afterwards, and more prize money would allow for that.”

    Canadian Eric Lamaze backed this up, as when asked whether he’d rather win WEG or the Rolex Grand Slam — worth €1m — he chose the latter (report, 18 September).

    This news story was first published in H&H magazine on 25 September 2014