Holly Smith: British showjumpers are making healthy progress *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    We were disappointed not to win the Nations Cup at Royal International after such a close competition but we’ll head to Dublin with a strong squad looking for revenge.

    Having just three team members after Scott Brash’s elimination at the water definitely put the pressure on the rest of us — he was gutted but we all understand how horses can show up the best people at the worst of times.

    Teams finished on higher penalties than in recent Nations Cups but, other than the horses who switched off to the water, there were no real bogey fences and none of them were struggling. If you jumped a good round you were rewarded and it was enjoyable to see a competition that wasn’t just about total perfection.

    All the familiar Hickstead elements were catching people out which came as a surprise — we were certainly training for them in advance.

    The plank came down several times as did the gate, and the undulations in the penultimate double were also catching a few.

    The water at Hickstead is one of the most intimidating in the world and I jumped my horse in the Derby trial last month just to ensure we didn’t have any problems there.

    Heat matters

    The weather went from one extreme to the other and none of the British team jumped their Nations Cup horses in the grand prix because of the heat.

    This year the schedule also changed, switching the Nations Cup to the Sunday and the King George V Gold Cup to Friday, which brings Hickstead in line with the other five-star Nations Cup shows except Dublin.

    It’s a format that doesn’t suit riders like me who have just the one top horse and have to save them for the Nations Cup and miss the biggest class of the show. Although I understand the decision, it makes the sport all the more elitist for those who have the horsepower. I have a feeling Hickstead may consider changing it back.

    One of the great things about the venue is having a family running the show. You can always call them up and speak to them directly and they’ve continued to put the investment in — which really showed in the weather conditions this week.

    We left Hickstead with a good feeling about our team. There are a few of us vying for a spot at the World Equestrian Games — healthy progress from the Europeans when we weren’t fit to send a squad.

    We have a lot of good owners at the moment — including the Nations Cup owners Gordon Hall, the Gochmans, Ludwig Criel, Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham — who are in it for the sport and not for the money and it helps us riders no end. It changes us from being producers for other nations to genuine competitors. It’s the kind of support that can be a complete game changer.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 August 2018