Graham Fletcher: Showjumping needs a pre-entry system *H&H VIP*

  • First the good news. Despite the share index dropping like a stone, entries at indoor shows near our base in Oxfordshire have never been busier.

    Our yard usually rocks up with seven or eight horses. And on a winter’s day, when it gets cold and dark early, I’m sure I’m not the only one who hopes the show will be efficiently and promptly run.

    A good collecting ring steward really helps, and there’s no finer example than Chris Parker at Addington.

    Something that would save time is course-designers changing the course after every two classes instead of between every class.

    I realise that having a completely fresh track for each class is done with the best of intentions. But is it really necessary? For sure, harrow the surface between classes, but to change the entire course takes considerably longer.

    The quickest at the job I’ve seen is Matt Hoskins, a really good course-designer who works mainly in the south and south-west. But while Matt’s pretty slick, many others can take half an hour plus to set up a new track — sometimes longer when there’s limited help available.

    Half an hour between classes easily adds up to 90 minutes to two hours per show day. And how many people — and horses — who have been there all day wouldn’t like to get home two hours earlier?

    There’s another reason why I’d advocate more consistency when it comes to courses. Hardly anyone jumps the same horse in more than two classes. The best way for a novice horse or inexperienced rider to progress is to jump the same course again, but higher. It’s all about building confidence.

    At home, we harrow our arena every day but only change the course twice a week. Anybody coming for training jumps the course, and then we put the fences up to encourage them to jump a bit bigger — but over the same track. So what’s the difference at a show?

    Entries in advance

    A venue near us that’s come on in leaps and bounds in terms of its arenas and general facilities is Helen Gallop’s Summerhouse.

    So popular was the last show there that they had to turn people away.

    So now, anyone competing there has to pre-enter all classes the day before. Anyone who enters but doesn’t compete for some reason gets a credit for the next show, so doesn’t lose any money.

    It’s a great idea. In fact, it would do everyone a great favour to impose a new rule that all competitors must pre-enter all classes for all shows the day before at the latest.

    There’s nothing worse than phoning a show, hearing there aren’t many entries, so you make a hasty departure from home — only to discover on arrival that they’re now swamped with entries and you face a three-hour delay to jump.

    I always feel sorry for competitors who have jumped a clear and been about to warm up for the jump-off when the big wagon arrives. Mindful that this is a good customer, the show accommodates the latecomers while everyone else has to wait. I can’t say I’m guilt-free on this; but if we had pre-entries, it wouldn’t happen.

    British Showjumping is old-fashioned in this respect compared with the rest of Europe. France has run a pre-entry system for years.

    No one goes to a dressage show or eventing without knowing their times. Yet at all except the big shows, a day out at a showjumping show remains a free-for-all.

    Starting times would help shows, owners and competitors plan in advance and have a better show day.

    If an old-timer like me can embrace new technology and enter in advance — what’s not to like?

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 18 February 2016