Graham Fletcher: ‘Please justify this bewildering system’


    Nothing stays the same in this fast-moving world of ours.

    Indeed, many of my generation look back with nostalgia at how the shows attracted the public. Some aspects of what’s changed about our sport are good. Breeding, for instance, has now become an exact science compared with the way we used to source our horses.

    Other changes are not so good…

    Take British Showjumping (BS), which is now run totally differently from how it was many years ago when I sat on the board. Then it largely consisted of a committee voted on by the membership with additional co-opted members from the business and commercial world.

    I have to say that it was a privilege to sit round a table and listen to the ideas and acumen put forward by such learned men as General Sir Cecil “Monkey” Blacker MBE, Dougie Bunn MBE and Malcolm Barr MBE, all of whom had the overall interests of our sport very high on their agenda.

    This era also coincided with showjumping’s most fruitful years in terms of sponsorship — not just for county shows, but for city shows, too. The number of top-quality riders who were produced for the British team during that time remains unmatched.

    Has the sport in Britain moved on or hit new heights since our team gold in London 2012 or Nick Skelton’s fantastic individual gold medal in Rio 2016? Given similarly prolific achievements in their day, would that committee of old have been more dynamic and proactive than their current successors? I know they would.

    I realise that today’s BS has, of necessity, become a completely different organisation. It has many things to deal with that we never had to consider back in the day; company law, health and safety, the list is endless. And that’s why they need a different style of committee from the one we had then. However, I have long argued and still maintain that they need professional showjumping experience to steer them in the right direction.

    An absurd situation

    A few days ago, I was entering Persimmon, a ride of our son Will, for an International Stairway class. I was surprised when my wife, Tina, said that as it’s a grade A class, she’d just make sure the horse is grade A.

    “Don’t be ridiculous,” I said, because Persimmon has won more than £15,000 in the past few months alone. But sure enough, Tina was right, the horse was registered as grade B.

    How can such an absurd situation possibly occur? Well, it was only when I checked the way they have interpreted and allocated points for different
    competitions that I realised the inexperience or naivety of whoever set the points for the various classes.

    At a recent young riders Nations Cup for under-21s at Fontainebleau, Will and Persimmon jumped for a clear and four over a big, difficult course. It also happened to be the best British score. For that, the horse was awarded eight points. At Chepstow in the international two-star grand prix, a class with more than 60 starters and fences at 1.45m to 1.50m, he was fourth and was given 16 points. Then he won a 1.30m at a local centre with very few entries — and got 45 points.

    I’ll let you do the maths.

    I would like BS to justify the reasoning behind a points system that is causing such bewilderment — we look forward to the reply.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 31 May 2018