H&H speaks to Di Lampard about the future of British showjumping [H&H VIP]

  • ‘We have a strong team of riders and horses — it’s just about harnessing that power,” Di Lampard told H&H, following the news that she was to become the first woman to lead British showjumping.

    Since 2011 the sport has been on a rollercoaster of results and performances.

    For years showjumping was the poor relation to eventing, in terms of success, in British horse sport but then a dramatic change occurred in 2011. At the European Championships in Madrid Britain took team bronze, and Nick Skelton individual bronze.

    Britain then thrilled and surprised fans further by taking Olympic gold in 2012, and this high continued into 2013 as the team clinched the top spot at the Europeans.

    However, in 2014 the team experienced a dip in form — despite being Olympic champions the country is yet to qualify for Rio 2016.

    For two years running Britain clawed its way into the final of the Nations Cup, after poor performances throughout the year and the threat of relegation. And at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) Britain finished 18th and out of contention for Rio qualification.

    Can British riders turn it around in 2015?

    After much speculation, Di Lampard was revealed as Rob Hoekstra’s successor as performance manager last week (5 February), and takes on the role immediately.

    She will step up from her current role as Team GBR co-selector and deputy chef d’equipe for Nations Cup jumping teams, a position she has held since 2010.

    Di, 57, is no stranger to top-level competition. During her career she was Britain’s leading lady rider for eight years, represented her country in two WEGs, two European Championships and around 50 Nations Cups.

    “My aim is to get the team in harmony and bring back the popularity of the sport,” said Di. “I want to reignite the fire we had after London 2012. If we can do all this I believe we can get back that enthusiasm we had in 2012.

    “It’s very exciting, but we always need more horses. There’s pressure on me as we haven’t qualified for Rio yet, but I’m confident that the riders can do it.”

    Moving forward

    Rob Hoekstra was credited as revolutionising British showjumping when he took up the position in 2010.

    However, he came under criticism after WEG 2014 — Britain’s worst-ever WEG performance.

    It also emerged in September that two formal complaints had been made against Rob in the run-up to WEG. The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) told H&H that it had ordered an independent review, but neither of the complaints were upheld.

    However, in October Rob announced his plans to step down on 1 January to “take up new challenges elsewhere in the sport”, and the search was on to find a new leader.

    “Rob put some very good foundations in place and I’ve learnt a lot from him. My approach will be slightly different, but then everyone has their own opinion,” said Di.

    “There will be emphasis on a squad of riders.The public might see those that are winning gold, but there are many good jumpers pushing them to get to that level.”

    Di also pledges to support young showjumpers, giving them the chance to be part of the Team GBR squad.

    “The older riders’ experience and mentoring is crucial,” said Di. “Developing younger riders is so important. They are coming to fruition so much earlier now and are making the championship teams, like Spencer Roe at WEG.”

    Q & A

    What are your main aims?

    To qualify for Rio. There’s a lot of work to be done as I’m so late into the role [it being February now], and I’m sure the other nations all have their plans secure. We need to be in the top three of the non-qualified nations at the Europeans in Aachen this summer to qualify, so I will discuss with the riders what their ideas are for the spring and what horsepower they have.

    So this year is all about the Europeans?

    Yes, that is the main plan, but we need to focus on the Nations Cup series, too. We have four counting shows — Rome, Rotterdam, Hickstead and Dublin — and it is paramount that we stay in the top league. To do this we need the strongest teams. Nations Cup and Championships go hand-in-hand.

    Who have you got your eye on?

    Ben Maher is producing a string of new horses over in Florida. He was second recently in the World Cup qualifier with Diva (report, 5 February) so I’m definitely keeping an eye on him. Nick Skelton is also getting himself fit, and his experience is paramount. Tim Gredley is a good championship rider also producing horses in Florida. Over in Europe Scott is strengthening his team; Sanctos has been invaluable and Scott’s a fantastic rider. William Whitaker has had a great season so far, Robert Whitaker is getting on well with Catwalk and Michael [Whitaker] is also building up a new team — there are lots of names in the hat.

    Are we still lacking horsepower?

    We’re not a massive breeding nation like Germany or Holland, but we have extremely good owners and riders. It was bad luck losing horses [to injury] pre-WEG, but we want everyone to remember the excitement of London 2012.

    How will you make a difference?

    I’m a good listener and every decision will be well communicated, and I will be very transparent with every athlete and owner.

    Ref: H&H 12 February, 2015