Graham Fletcher: Why is there no support for young riders? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    The performance of the year so far has to be Scott Brash’s grand prix win at the London Global Champions Tour as it underlined the importance of self-belief.

    With two fences down in the qualifier, Scott and Hello Mr President just scraped through by finishing 35th. When I walked the massive course for the final, I honestly didn’t think his nine-year-old was ready. But how wrong I was as Scott instilled such confidence in him, and not just in the first round.

    Even when he was first to go in the jump-off, did he ride it as though any of the fences needed a bit of caution? No, he set off at blistering pace and kept it up to deliver an unbeatable round.

    Self-belief applies to every sport. Asked about winning football European Cups with unfashionable clubs and outside-ranking players, Brian Clough once said: “I may not be the best manager in the world, but I’d definitely be in the top one.”

    We’ll always hear coaches insist how important training is, and they’re right. Talent alone isn’t sufficient to win nowadays — riders also have to be fit and well mounted. But those with something special still stand out.

    David Broome, one of the most unassuming men you could meet, underwent a complete character change when he entered a ring. No course was too big, and if an “unbeatable” time was set, he had the confidence to make it beatable.

    No sportsman can get to the top without talent. But it’s self-belief that turns a top sportsman into a great one.

    Young talent

    Let’s hope our World Equestrian Games (WEG) squad not only finishes in a medal position but also gets that all-important qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.

    It looks as if we have a much stronger squad than last year. But it has to be said that, with the exception of Hickstead, the team results have been largely disappointing this season.

    It’s been our youth teams that have flown the flag. The Europeans at Fontainebleau were very tough competitions. The juniors and young riders both featured more than 20 teams with 120 riders jumping some really taxing courses.

    We can safely say we’ve got the best youth squad we’ve had for years. But the problem is, how do they get to compete at the better international shows?

    Take Horse of the Year Show (HOYS): there’s no automatic entry for a young rider medallist. Yes, British Showjumping (BS) got one for Amy Inglis last year, and how well she did. This year, I hope the same will be done for Harry Charles. But it needs to become a permanent invitation.

    I’d like to think our other top British international shows would follow suit. I know the FEI impose restrictions on the number of British competitors at British shows — but I also know there’s nothing the British public likes better than to see the young guns beating the senior riders.

    Top performances

    Well done to Grandstand, organisers of a much-improved BS national championships. With increased entries and hard-fought classes, the show seems to have grown into itself.

    I was chuffed with son Olli, who took the under-16 and under-21 national titles. Robert Murphy, another of Britain’s silver medal-winning junior European team, rode well throughout to take the HOYS wild card. That was particularly pleasing because, at 17, he’s a genuine young rider.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 23 August 2018