*NEW COLUMNIST* Nick Skelton: Cost-cutting the wrong people *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Hear hear to Carl Hester’s excellent comment in the 11 May issue of H&H (Where have all the sponsors gone?). The contribution that companies such as Land Rover provide across equestrianism is crucial, so the news that we’ve lost the support of some of our key sponsors is a travesty.

    But it’s not only these vital backers the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) have let slip through their fingers — the same can be said for some of the sport’s backroom talent.

    Why wasn’t Dickie Waygood — a brilliant man with a wealth of equestrian knowledge — promoted to the top job to work across the disciplines, instead of being lost from dressage to eventing? Similarly, when the BEF’s former performance director Will Connell’s departed to the United States Equestrian Federation a couple of years ago, he took with him a massive skill-set and so much knowledge. I also understand that showjumping youth team chef d’equipes Alan Fazakerley, who has done tremendous work for the sport, and Matt Lanni, have been laid off because of financial cuts. Well, they’re cost-cutting the wrong people.

    There appears to be a growing trend for non-horsey people to run the sport and it’s a disaster. You can have all the credentials and qualifications in the world, but the bottom line is that those at the helm need to know horses inside out. You have to have that passion. It’s like asking me to run the Lawn Tennis Association — I wouldn’t know where to start.

    What is happening in our governing body? With just three years to go until the next Olympics, someone needs to take the reins and point it back in the right direction.

    A pat on the back for Windsor

    Going to Royal Windsor this year was like a breath of fresh air. What a great show they put on. In this day and age, when you jump week in, week out in small arenas, it’s really nice to be able to enjoy a lovely big ring, a spacious warm-up and with stables close by. The course-designing was top-notch and the competition — with the world number one and plenty of other leading riders — was superb. The organisers couldn’t do enough for you and it was run to perfection. To have The Queen there, so interested in our sport, is wonderful.

    On a personal note, what the show did for my retirement was so special. To have it on home soil, alongside Big Star, with the crowds crammed into every corner of the ring, was amazing. I started my career with John and Michael Whitaker, so to have them and Scott Brash come in with me meant a lot.

    I told my son Harry to go racing at Ludlow — instead of joining me at Windsor — and ride some winners. That’s the important thing for him and he’s flying at the moment, with 20-odd winners in the last 17 days — but I didn’t know he was going to send that emotional tribute message, so I was touched by that.

    But a truly unforgettable moment came earlier in the week when I was asked to ride Big Star up to Windsor Castle for a personal meeting with The Queen. She’s hugely knowledgeable, looked him over and wanted to know about his breeding, stud duties and what he’s like temperament-wise.

    Taking the show to five-star status has made it one of the top shows in the world, so let’s hope it continues.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 1 June 2017