Graham Fletcher: ‘It’s an exasperating situation’ *H&H Plus*


  • Graham Fletcher reflects on Brexit problems, and looks to the Olympics

    I warned that transporting British horses to European shows post-Brexit would be more expensive, more time-consuming and would take a lot of getting used to after the ease we’ve enjoyed for decades now. In reality, it’s turning out to be far, far worse than I imagined. And I’m not alone.

    “The whole thing is a ridiculous joke,” John Renwick told me last month as his
    wife Laura, one of our most successful international riders, was about to leave for the tour in Vilamoura, Portugal.

    As well as the increased costs involved, there’s the time and effort our vets need to scrutinise the horses because, if anything’s wrong, the customs officials
    at Calais will send you back to Dover.

    Top equine vet Bobby McEwen summed it up in a letter to the Daily Telegraph. There’s regulation and there’s over-the-top bureaucracy, he wrote, adding that he couldn’t believe he was being asked about diseases that haven’t been seen in the British Isles for more than 100 years.

    Scott Brash is also exasperated by the situation, which curtailed his plans for the beginning of the year, although he tells me he’ll soon have everything sorted so he can get going. Scott rightly cites equine welfare as a major concern if horses are delayed for hours at borders.

    Like all successful people, he’s been proactive about trying to find a solution, and points out that Norway and Switzerland, both non-EU countries, have a far better deal than the UK.

    Our federation is perhaps too small an organisation to in uence the Government,
    says Scott, but if we worked with the racing industry and all pulled together, we could have an impact.

    Scott is collating all the important points ready to give to Lord Harris, for whom he rides, who will forward the dossier to the relevant Government minister. To have such an influential man on our side is great news, because these new constraints are affecting all aspects of the sport.

    Will the best foreign riders come to our international shows under these conditions? But I think the biggest effect will be that it will only be worth competing abroad if you can go for four to six weeks and so spread your costs. We were told Brexit would be a land of milk and honey… I hope the honey tastes good when they get the top off, because the milk has definitely gone sour.

    To all our Scottish friends who are having similar problems exporting their fish, next time you come down to London, get the clans together, put your kilts on, play the bagpipes, and do a Braveheart. This time we won’t be fighting you, we’ll be marching right behind you!

    A disappointing shell

    I love everything about the Olympic Games; the camaraderie, the emotion, the exposure that makes minority sports more popular than football. But while I admire the Tokyo organisers’ optimism that this summer’s Games will go ahead, if it happens without the crowds it will be a disappointing shell of its former self.

    I would much rather see this year’s event postponed to 2022 and the Paris Olympics moved to 2025. Next year, God willing, will be a more normal one – and the Olympics would do what it does best in raising the world’s spirits.

    As an added bonus, Nick Skelton would further extend his reign as the longest-serving showjumping individual gold medallist ever!

    Ref: 11 February 2021

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