For many riders, this time of year means making a big choice. Should they stay in Britain and do the national circuit or go on one of the tours in Spain or Portugal?
I’ve done both in the past and this year my partner Bryony and I decided to stay at home. The cost of tours is huge. As well as entry fees, to get there you have ferry and diesel charges and countless tolls to pay. Another important fact is that you can’t take every horse on the yard, so how are the owners of those left at home going to feel and what on earth do you do with those horses when you’re away anyway?
I honestly think British Showjumping has got it right with the winter classic series. The classes now start at newcomers level, so we can compete most of our horses. There are enough different classes to give the choice of going for it and trying to win some money or producing horses more steadily and getting clear rounds on their record.
Centres in Britain have also made a huge effort to upgrade their facilities. Many of them now have permanent stabling and the surfaces are improving all the time. There’s nothing they can do about the weather, but with a fantastic indoor warm-up area like we have at Keysoe, you don’t even know when it’s raining.
I’d love to change the perception that a two-star show in Europe is better than anything we have here. That simply isn’t true.
Unless you finish in the top three in a European ranking class, the prize money is no better and often worse than what’s on offer at a winter classic. I also believe that many of our 1.40m classes are equal to most ranking classes on the Continent.
I can’t see the point of travelling six- and seven-year-olds abroad to jump double clear and earn a few euros when you have great targets in Britain, such as the newcomers and Foxhunter finals.
In the old days, you probably needed to take young horses abroad to sell them, but we’re so much better off these days. With livestream and social media, people can spot a good horse from anywhere in the world.
And we have to remember that to many owners, horses aren’t a commodity to be sold as soon as possible. They are their pets and part of the family.
It may be a business to us, but we must never forget that we’re in it because we too love horses.
Ref Horse & Hound; 14 February 2019