Graham Fletcher: Make Britain great again *H&H VIP*

  • I read with interest, and a little nostalgia, Pippa Cuckson’s piece in H&H (feature, 29 March)about how, some decades ago, Britain ruled the waves with the best and most lucrative shows 
in the world.

    Indeed, in my late teens, I got into senior British teams because our then top riders didn’t want to compete abroad — such was the fantastic prize money in the UK. When I’ve told today’s younger riders this, they’ve always looked at me as if I’ve just landed from Mars. But, thanks to Pippa, I’ve got my street cred back!

    Now things have swung the other way. More riders are competing on overseas tours, where there are two or three ranking classes a week. A growing number don’t enjoy the challenge of jumping on grass. Does this mean our county shows — for so long the backbone of our sport’s infrastructure — will soon 
be irrelevant?

    My answer to that is, “No”, because when county shows put on sufficient prize money to attract the top riders, they still host great competitions. While the most lucrative shows used 
to be in the south of England, now our best two national 
shows are the Royal Highland and Great Yorkshire.

    If other shows are struggling, they need help and support to restructure. Suggestions include running a 1.40m the day before a Stairway to encourage the production of younger grade As, horses who aren’t quite ready to go on those international tours. Maybe we even need tier-one and tier-two county shows, with the latter having schedules to accommodate emerging combinations.

    I don’t know whether the development officers employed by British Showjumping are supposed to help our shows 
with ideas such as these.

    Main-ring entertainment slots at county shows are really expensive to put on. Yet a good, lively showjumping competition with excellent commentary already draws the crowds. We had packed-out stands at the Great Yorkshire last year watching the likes of Robert Smith, Laura Renwick and the Whitakers, battling it out and giving their all.

    During the show, I commentated alongside Mike Tucker. As we shook hands at the end of the final day, he said: “That worked really well, Graham, let’s do the same next year.” Those words resonated as I attended his funeral earlier this month. He was a good friend and a lovely man. God bless 
you, Mike.

    A grand prix record?

    Very well done to the Broome family for running their Welsh Masters so well in what were atrociously wet conditions; particularly for getting horseboxes to the show site. 
It was really uplifting to hear from James Broome that they hadn’t had one single complaint. This was the British at their best.

    The grand prix was won by 58-year-old Richard Barton, still riding with a lot of Yorkshire determination, on Donata. Second was my son Olli, aged 15, with KBIS Caicos.

    It’s one for the statisticians, but I doubt if there’s ever been a bigger age gap between the first two in a grand prix in the history of showjumping.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 26 April 2018