Graham Fletcher: ‘How the mighty have fallen’ *H&H VIP*

  • Let’s hope that today (Friday 28 July) at Hickstead the British team can get their first good result in what’s been an absolute shocker of a season so far.

    Many people have asked me what’s gone so wrong, especially after our London 2012 team gold and Nick Skelton’s fantastic individual gold in Rio last year.

    But the reality is that Skelly’s gold only papered over the cracks of what was a very poor 2016 for Team GB. If relegation from the super league and 12th in the Olympic team competition was disappointing, nobody could have predicted how appalling 2017 has been so far…

    With slots for two teams to be promoted from division two of the FEI Nations Cup League, it should have been a shoo-in for us to go up. Belgium have trotted up to get automatic promotion and as we go to Gijon (30 August-4 September) for the last team competition, it’s between us and Luxembourg for the other place.

    What do they know?

    Over the past four years, there’s been box ticking by administrators who know nothing about what it takes to make a raw, novice horse into an Olympic contender and keep it in the country. And that’s why the first thing that needs doing is to set up a three-man committee with expert knowledge of showjumping to make the important decisions.

    It would be easy to be pessimistic about the future. But we have the best bunch of up-and-coming juniors that we’ve had for many years. However, they will need help to get owners and investment — and the committee I’ve mentioned would know which riders are talented, determined and are in it for the long run.

    Those are the riders that need training by top pros; they need the support to compete at the better shows and the right help and inspiration to become the Olympic riders of tomorrow.

    British Showjumping needs to get this set up soon as possible. To do nothing would be a dereliction of duty.

    The last time a British team was victorious at Hickstead was in 2010. I was there that day with my wife Tina, who jumped two lovely rounds on Hello Sailor. And with Peter Charles, Will Funnell and Michael Whitaker going well too, we finished up winning by a distance.

    It was a pleasure to be involved. Let’s hope that team spirit can be replicated tomorrow to start the fight back that’s so desperately needed.

    I have wonderful memories of riding at Aachen. It’s the world’s best show to win at, and this year’s grand prix was one of the best to watch. Jumped in front of a knowledgeable crowd, and with the beautiful arena and massive jumps, it was spell-binding.

    Well done to winner Gregory Wathelet — although I was rooting for Laura Kraut in the jump-off.

    On home turf

    Packed crowds at the Great Yorkshire enjoyed superb jumping. A demo by Atkinson Action Horses also went down really well.

    For the grand finale, a stunt rider rode a grey stallion at full gallop around the arena with no saddle or bridle.

    I watched with Peter Allen who remarked with typically straight-faced Teesside dryness: “The air ambulance isn’t half gonna be busy tomorrow when all the happy hackers try that at home…”

    H&H, 27 July 2017