Harriet Nuttall: why showjumpers need to ride on grass *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Like many other British riders, I’ve been in Vejer De La Frontera for the Spanish Sunshine Tour since mid-February, with the aim of getting an early start jumping on grass.

    While everyone back home has been faced with freezing temperatures, the weather in Spain has also been awful. For the past two weeks, Sunday’s grand prix has had to be postponed until Monday because of the rain — which has meant no one gets a day off as we launch straight back in to the young horse classes.

    But the grass has coped admirably well — on week two, I was 38th to go in the grand prix and it was still jumping like carpet — but the organisers understandably don’t want to wreck the rings. If anything, the sand arenas have suffered the worst. Spain isn’t used to this weather — normally they are trying to hold water in their surfaces rather than worry about drainage.

    Why go abroad?

    The reason so many riders now go abroad isn’t just chasing money and points, it’s about getting the right preparation for the horses. I am definitely a grass rider, and I think everyone has come for the chance to jump a big class in a grass ring — it rides much better.

    There are plenty of familiar faces — Phillip Miller, Harry and Peter Charles, Laura Kraut, William Funnell and Holly Smith — and they’ve all come to jump on grass. If you want to get on a Nations Cup squad, Vejer is the best place to be.

    We’re jumping three- and four-star here before anyone else and the courses are big, bold and huge. Di Lampard will definitely be keeping an eye on who is performing consistently.

    I’ve been suffering from a bit of “four-faultitis” here with my top horses, A Touch Imperious and Galway Bay Jed, but we’ve fortunately still managed to qualify for next weekend’s big invitational grand prix.

    There have been some strong British performances so far — Jake Saywell and Harry Charles have both won a grand prix and Holly Smith’s Heart’s Destiny has shown he’s very capable.

    Another bonus here is that when you have a big scopey horse, the money is good and a double clear around a big track is usually well-rewarded.

    UK internationals

    It would be amazing if we could hold a tour in the UK, but with our weather conditions it’s so difficult. However, we do need more international shows at home — other than the ones that only half of us are able to scrape into on points. I know that the idea of having rankings points for county classes was mentioned last year and it’s something I would definitely support.

    The standard of the Stairways is high and they are great competitions, but for £1,500 they don’t even compare to a two-star show in Belgium where there might be the opportunity to jump three rankings classes in a week.

    When I was lucky enough to be selected to jump in the Nations Cup at Dublin last year, it was a dream come true — I would never have turned it down — but I was going into a five-star having never jumped at that level. On points, it’s hard for me to get into anything above three-star.

    That experience made me push a lot more and that’s why I — and a lot of other riders — are in Spain, so we are in a position to go and represent our country if the opportunity comes.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 22 March 2018