Graham Fletcher: Staying at the top requires a hell of a lot of work [H&H VIP]

  • Winning gold at the Olympics and Europeans happened because two important factors came together — to win medals you need great horses and great riders.

    For years you had the top riders — such as Nick Skelton and the Whitakers — but you also had some good young riders who just didn’t have the horses to join the greats.

    Then you get two young riders in the space of a few years — Ben Maher and Scott Brash — who are not just talented, but are brilliant at the big occasions.

    We have been fortunate that there’s been a handful of owners who have bought some really talented horses and have the means to resist a lot of money offered.

    Like football and Formula 1, without financial backing you haven’t got a prayer. With loyal owners, top riders and good team planning, we can continue to win medals.

    I’ve always said, as a rule of thumb, if you produce a top horse you can either sell it, or wait six or seven seasons and, soundness permitting, you can win the money back.

    But now owners are looking at vast sums of money and you have to be independently wealthy to keep a horse.

    There’s also a lot of sport to choose from in Britain — in equestrianism the top choice is racing, which is not as big in Germany and Holland.

    It’s hard to get new owners and you have to do your best to keep them — Will Connell and the British Equestrian Federation do an excellent job.

    You can look at the ownership issue as glass half full or empty as you please. But what needs to be done is a continuation of what’s happening now.

    Just because we have two lots of golds doesn’t mean they’ll keep coming. It takes a hell of a lot of work to maintain it.