Graham Fletcher: An idiotic idea that does nothing for showjumping *H&H VIP*

  • Sometimes the FEI and British Showjumping (BS) make decisions that they believe are for the good of the sport, but they sometimes don’t think to consult riders or spectators.

    Grands prix used to be clean cut with only clear rounds jumping off. I’ve never met a rider — national or international — who agrees that it’s been a good thing to take the fastest four faulters through too.

    It’s an idiotic idea that does nothing for the spectacle of showjumping and only serves to protect course-designers who get it wrong. BS adopting the system for its International Trials and Stairway series is a poor move.

    For proof, take the Hickstead Derby. Packed crowds were spellbound by a competition in which just one clear round prevailed. Or look at the Global Champions’ Tour in Paris where only three clears came forward from 40-odd of the world’s best combinations to keep TV and live audiences enthralled.

    Bringing back four-faulters for jump-offs complicates it for spectators — and scores nought out of 10 for entertainment value.

    County shows up their game

    Well-run county shows do a great job of promoting our sport to larger, wider audiences. However the rapid emergence of all-weather surfaces looked as though it might send them the way of the dinosaurs.

    So it’s really pleasing to see a phenomenal revival of county shows this year.

    Royal Norfolk has never had as many entries for the major classes, while Devon County totally upped its game. I used to hate going to this show; unless it rained, the ground was usually too firm to jump on. But this year the going was top class and they kept watering throughout. Paul Connor’s courses were of a high standard too.

    An eventful journey

    Guy Williams has always been the ultimate never-say-die winner. And since moving to France last year — and competing at top level in Europe week in, week out — he’s added more polish to his game.

    With a comparatively easy commute across the Channel, it shouldn’t have been too difficult for Guy to get to this year’s Derby meeting at Hickstead. But along with many other lorry drivers, he was stranded for 10 hours at Calais due to the migrant problem.

    Just as Guy was finally able to move on in his wagon, another driver warned him that two migrants had hidden themselves under the roof hayrack.

    Guy informed the police who, with a Gallic shrug of their shoulders, said it wasn’t their problem. So, worried that his horses might get sick if they spent any more time stuck in the stifling heat, Guy jumped out of the cab. Knowing they had been spotted, the two lads soon scarpered.

    The moral of the story? Don’t mess with Guy when he’s in a rush.

    Ringside nerves

    When you’ve competed all your life, it’s not easy to watch from the collecting ring.

    With my wife Tina, it’s never been a problem. In the 20 years we’ve been together, I’ve never expected her to make a mistake, and she rarely does.

    Our stable jockey, Alfie Bradstock, is talented but still on a learning curve. Thanks to my bollockings and Tina’s calmness, however, he’s now really at the races and I enjoy seeing him ride.

    But watching our 12-year-old son Ollie in children-on-horses British team trials was another matter.

    The following day, I was at the doctor’s for my annual check-up, having nearly snuffed it with pneumonia four years ago. As he reached for the stethoscope, I said: “You won’t be needing that…”

    “How do you know?” asked the doctor with a frown.

    “Trust me,” I replied. “After what I’ve just been through, and I’m still standing, my ticker’s just fine.”

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 July 2015