Graham Fletcher: Support is everything *H&H Plus*


  • I’ve often thought it would be interesting to find out how many of today’s top sports stars put their success down to the involvement of one or both parents. And that wouldn’t just apply to our sport, but across all sports. The likes of Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray and David Beckham have all attributed their winning ways to parental backing.

    Sometimes the older generation is involved in a star’s formative years, then cut adrift when it’s thought they’re no longer needed. Others remain in the thick of things. Andy Murray has famously had different coaches, but his mother Judy has hardly missed a match throughout his career.


    There are many instances of parents nurturing showjumping riders’ careers. David Broome’s father, Fred, would be a classic example, as would John and Michael Whitaker’s parents. And when it comes down to loyalty and steadfastness, no parent could have been more supportive than Helen Tredwell’s father Alan, who sadly passed away recently.

    Alan, an all-round horseman who also loved his hunting and National Hunt racing, was always by Helen’s side as she carved out a career to become one of the best riders on our national circuit.

    She’s a prolific winner, but if Helen’s CV lacks one thing, it’s a top international horse. However, in Philip Tuckwell’s Galtur, a very scopey grey nine-year-old they’ve steadily produced, it looks like he could be the one to give her those richly deserved honours.

    Alan often talked about Galtur and I’m sure he would have loved to have seen the horse on a world-class stage. And if that day arrives, as I hope for Helen it will, then I’m sure that even if he isn’t there in body, her father most certainly will be in soul.

    ‘We’ve failed to deliver’

    It’s several years since I first argued that the Nations Cup format, with its discard scores, was outdated. It’s now even more so as modern sporting crowds increasingly demand quick-fire entertainment.

    And never has that been done better than at last month’s Global Champions Prague Playoffs. With over 10,000 spectators, multi-millions in prize money, three to a team and every score counting, it was exciting throughout.

    Add to that excellent TV commentary by James Fisher and Frederik de Backer, who often cut back to the collecting ring to hear riders’ opinions, and the lead changing several times, it made for top-class entertainment.

    Of course, riders don’t like a three-per-team system that puts enormous pressure on them. You could see mistakes being made by top pros because of it. Nevertheless, I think it’s something that should be adopted, in part at least, by first-division Nations Cups.

    It’s probably best to keep four riders per team with a discard score for first rounds, otherwise it would be difficult for team managers to introduce young riders or rookies. But second rounds should be about three riders, pressure, uncertainty and theatre.

    Take our own Nations Cup at Hickstead. It’s 10 years since the team of Michael Whitaker, William Funnell, Peter Charles and Tina Fletcher won it for Britain — and they did so in front of a packed and enthusiastic crowd.

    But the audience has fallen away since because we’ve failed to deliver. In fact, in the last two years, when it became clear we had no chance of winning, very few were left watching. At least with three to a team, and an all-to-play-for format, spectators would wait to see the very last competitor jump.

    If this idea is ever to come to fruition, the public should be asked how much they’d enjoyed it. The golden rule is don’t ask the riders — you might as well ask a turkey if it’s looking forward to Christmas!

    Ref Horse & Hound; 12 December 2019