Commentator and broadcaster Adam Cromarty reflects on a positive 2023, but feels there’s still room to improve
This year has flown by and by the time you read this we’ll have found out if we’ve made the nice list. December slows down for me and it’s a chance to sleep in my own bed and enjoy the festive period.
The past 12 months have been positive and, as someone who is constantly flying to shows, it finally felt as if we have returned to full normality after the pandemic. Apart from higher horse prices, the sport also seems to have reverted to a pre-2020 state.
A subject that still seems to be causing a stir is the need to pre-enter at national shows. Brought in to adhere to Covid restrictions and maintained to help monitor horse movement for biosecurity, riders need to enter in time to let the organisers publish individual start times 36 hours prior to the start of the show.
I couldn’t imagine going back to the days of just waiting to see who turned up and having numbers added to a board to decide the starting order.
At multi-day events, times are meant to be published before 4pm for subsequent days. This can be problematic because those in bigger classes late in the evening really need to be able to jump before deciding what to enter for the next day. Assuming all involved apply a common-sense approach, I do view this move to be a step forward.
A John Whitaker masterclass and rising stars
Internationally, the Union flag has been flying high with a range of standout performances. John Whitaker gave us a masterclass during the Hickstead Nations Cup (pictured top), Harry Charles is becoming unbeatable and Ben Maher is always superb.
I would also highlight young US-based British rising star, Grace Debney who at the age of 19 is climbing the senior ranks, while a lot of young talent is coming through the ranks at home, where British Showjumping membership numbers are stable.
The London International always stands as a real jewel in the crown. It would never be viable, but I’d love to see our national championships in a similar setting. Currently held at Stoneleigh Park, the year-round hard work and investment of national competitors are rewarded with a championship arena that is split in half. The facilities, surroundings and atmosphere are also lacking.
When it’s time for the tender process, we must explore other options. As British Showjumping and British Dressage have teamed up to work on sustainability, there would also be an argument to have both their national finals in succession to share the costs and the carbon footprint that is associated with hosting these relatively large events.
Beware of stagnation
Continual evolution is important and we have to be careful of becoming stagnant within our competition structure. Everyone will have their own ideas, but I would really like to see age classes become a focus with separate finals for those qualifying through our British novice, discovery, newcomers and Foxhunter series.
I think that amateurs should be able to jump bigger tracks against other amateurs, without having to go into open classes.
I’ve been on my soapbox about this for years now, but we also need to introduce immediate jump-off rules. Single phase has a place but young horses and amateurs can go through entire seasons without experiencing a jump-off. With an immediate jump-off, riders stay in the ring then get another bell and countdown before jumping off. It’s the best of both worlds and is also more exciting to watch. This is difficult at the moment as our rules look for the jump-off course to be higher, so I’d change this too.
We’re getting set for an Olympic year but for those who aren’t Paris-bound, we live in a sport of personal bests. No matter what your goals are for 2024, good luck and from my house to yours, have a very happy new year.
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