Nick Skelton: Europe is walking all over us *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    There’s much discussion surrounding Britain’s Nations Cup results this year and the team’s performance at Hickstead last week was abysmal. What looked a very capable team on paper simply wasn’t good enough. There’s just no strength or depth and it feels as if every time we’ve come out in a Nations Cup this season, we’ve failed.

    So where do we go from here? It’s clear there needs to be a better system in place, but actually the future is looking brighter — but we’re probably talking four years down the line. We have some very good young riders coming through — Jack Whitaker, Oliver Fletcher, Harry Charles and Robert Murphy — and I rate them a lot.

    Why are those kids in particular looking so good? Simply because they’re being trained properly. I don’t want to say our sport is elitist, but they’re coming from professional backgrounds and getting the right grounding. They’re being taught how to ride well, how to train their horses and, most importantly, how to look at the bigger picture when producing their horses in order to keep them at the top level. And this is perhaps where we as a nation so often go wrong.

    We have a lot of good young horses in this country but so often they are wasted — ruined before they can reach their full potential. If you find a really good young horse, you’ve got to look to the end result and not burn it up when it’s young. Win the five-star grand prix at Aachen and you get €375,000 (£339,000); every weekend now there’s a grand prix somewhere with a €300,000 total — so the rewards are there if you can get your horse to that level, while you get a pittance for winning a young horse class along the way.

    Which brings us back to the need for age classes. The Foxhunter was fine back in 1952 but, to me, it doesn’t mean anything to win that final because you might have a good six-year-old, but what’s the point if you’re up against a 10-year-old? That’s why Big Star won the six-year-old championship but I never tried to win the Foxhunter on him.

    They’ve been talking about height and age classes for years but someone at British Showjumping needs to take the bull by the horns and say let’s do it. Let’s make the Foxhunter the seven-year-old final, you’ve got the Big Star six-year-old championship and how about the Milton final for five-year-olds? That’s how they do it in Europe and right now they’re walking all over us at every level.

    GCT gets thumbs up

    This was the fourth year that the GCT has come to London and the Royal Hospital Chelsea was by far the best venue — and made for the most brilliant show. There was acres of room, a nice sized arena and a collecting ring that was under cover, with the stables right next door. There should probably have been more public seating because it was packed, but I really hope this event is here to stay.

    Well done to Scott Brash for winning a fantastic grand prix — what he did is proof of the need to plan ahead to win the main event. Sadly the class was marred by John’s fall — and at our age, falls like that hurt before you even hit the ground. It was a worrying time and seeing him on the body board brought back bad memories for me. But it was great news when he got the all clear and, even better, he dropped £2.50 — which I kept, because it’s the only money I’ve got off him in 40 years.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 10 August 2017