Graham Fletcher: Give us a bit of bling *H&H VIP*

  • I can’t help but notice how much colour and glitz pony and young riders put into their riding gear. I’m the polar opposite of my wife on this one. Tina prefers the more traditional dress code, whereas I like to see a bit of glamour and bling.

    A couple of years ago the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — the “Mounties” — did a display at Devon County. When the crowd saw them in their striking red jackets entering the arena to stirring music, they piled into the stand and around the ring to watch in their thousands. The Mounties’ display was followed by the International Stairway class, a good competition over a big course. But with every competitor riding in pastel shades or drab colours, it all seemed a bit understated as far as show biz was concerned.

    Nina Barbour got it spot-on at the recent Liverpool International with a spectacular opening to each performance and a top commentary team working the crowd up to full throttle. It was top entertainment.

    We live in a fast-changing world, and when people have paid good money to watch our sport, we must entertain them. It’s also about giving sponsors — and potential sponsors — full value.

    Spruce Meadows in Calgary was the first to maximise this years ago by giving its commercial backers a fanfare. And Dougie Bunn always made sure Hickstead’s Nations Cup stood out. A pre-competition march-past by the Coldstream Guards never failed to crank up the sense of occasion.

    So what about now? I’m not suggesting our senior riders glam up like the kids — modern fashions are best left to youth. Take in-vogue stubbly beards; a young, good-looking guy can get away with it, whereas a fat, balding, middle-aged man growing on his face what he can no longer grow on this head has the look of a suspect about to enter an identity parade.

    However, do I think some of our shows could do with a bit more razz for the enjoyment of spectators? It’s a definite yes. Just ask my pal Geoff Billington.

    Welfare conundrums

    Horse welfare is paramount in every equestrian discipline. It would be disrespectful to those who looked after our top horses of yesteryear to say that horses are better cared for today. They aren’t, but standards of management and nutrition have improved. However, what’s acceptable in one discipline sometimes isn’t in another.

    While I was watching the racing on television the other day, one runner had previously had a problem starting. So the trainer was at the start with a lunge whip. Now I can’t see much wrong with that; the horse has had money bet on it, its owners and connections have paid to get it there, yet a bad start means its race is over. So for this horse to hear a little crack from behind to get it on its way is acceptable in racing. Anyway, if it didn’t want to race it would soon pull up.

    But imagine being at Olympia on World Cup day. The packed crowd and TV audience wait in anticipation as the curtain draws back for the next competitor. Then suddenly they see the horse is being chased by someone cracking a lunge whip. I’m sure the crowd would make a deafening sound. But it wouldn’t be applause!

    Ref Horse & Hound; 9 February 2017