Graham Fletcher: ‘we barely have a handful of horses capable of jumping courses like that’ [H&H VIP]

  • The FEI World Cup final never disappoints. In Las Vegas it was won on jumping ability, consistency over the three legs and who could hold their nerve.

    For a competition packed with world-class combinations, an awful lot of fences came down, proving what a tight and difficult arena it was to ride in. Some horses — especially those more used to a staid atmosphere — were affected by the noisy stands so close to the ring.

    In Europe, when it looks as if someone will go clear, commentators may ask the audience to “shh”. But not in America; the higher they jump and faster they gallop, the more they whoop and holloa.

    I used to love riding in the States for this very reason. It’s totally over the top, and purists might say it’s inappropriate, but it turns our sport into a brilliant piece of theatre.

    It was great to see three outstanding younger riders — Ireland’s Bertram Allen, Jos Verlooy from Belgium and Martin Fuchs — putting in great performances.

    It could be said that the Fuchs family is Switzerland’s answer to the Whitakers, with Martin’s father Thomas and uncle Markus both being former top international riders. However, FEI TV commentator Steve Hadley made a very good point about Martin.

    “It doesn’t matter how much training and support you have, you don’t ride like that without an awful lot of talent,” he said.

    This World Cup final was the first I can remember without one British rider.

    Not that long ago, there were so many riders clamouring to earn World Cup points that our team manager had to decide who could go to which shows with qualifiers. There was no such dilemma this year.

    Scott Brash has opted to use his best horse Hello Sanctos on the Global Champions Tour; while Ben Maher has spent most of his winter in the States.

    So not only is the queue of riders missing, but the fact of life is that we barely have a handful of horses in this country capable of jumping courses like those we saw in Las Vegas.

    World Cup runner-up Penelope Leprevost was unlucky not to win. She and Beezie Madden rode so unbelievably well that to call them “two top lady riders” is nearly derogatory. They are world-class riders, full stop, end of… They’re as good as they come.

    Full marks to Steve Guerdat; to become Olympic and World Cup champion on two different horses is masterful. He also gave hope to any aspiring young riders because the terrible stride he had to the last fence proved that even the best can occasionally make a total Horlicks of it!

    Swallows get my vote

    It’s a lovely spring day as I write. In the background, the TV is on and I can hear the babble of politicians.

    Looking outside, I spot the first swallows looping low past my window. Back from their journey from the tip of South Africa, the survivors have returned to their home here at Foxglade Farm to nest and breed. But their beautiful motion of flight is interrupted as yet another politician makes another vacuous promise they won’t keep.

    For a fleeting second it occurred to me that if just one politician had the intelligence and tenacity of those swallows, they could even turn Greece into a prosperous country.

    Ref: H&H 30 April, 2015