Graham Fletcher: Let’s follow Germany’s lead when shows restart *H&H Plus*


  • Our showjumping columnist reflects on what British centres can learn from the first show to have taken place since lockdown in Germany and how generous riders at the top of their game can be with their time to everyone’s benefit...

    When will competitions start again in the UK? That’s the question everyone’s asking, especially when a three-day show has run successfully in Germany.

    Organised by Holger Hetzel, it had all the correct measures in place, including one groom to two horses, and using American-style warming-up.

    This involves four practice jumps, each with four wings, in the collecting ring. Riders are called in with five horses to go. They can use the whole area to ride round but can only use one jump each – which becomes “their” jump.

    I’ve seen it work really well in the States; for Covid-19 purposes it avoids groups of people standing around a fence.

    Holgar said how much everybody had enjoyed his show, which was fully sanctioned, and that he’s encouraging other centres to do likewise.

    Hopefully we can soon follow Germany’s example with similar shows, because there’s such a lot at stake. Competitive riders and show centres are losing money at what is traditionally their most profitable time of year, and British Showjumping (BS) is missing out on horse and rider registrations.

    We’ve made the most of lockdown – the extra time we’ve had to spend with the younger horses has really helped them, as it has our clients’ progress in their training – but you can’t beat getting into the ring in competition mode.

    Valuable insight

    When my son Will started doing his showjumping podcast, I thought it would just feature a few of his young rider team-mates. However, I can’t believe how many top riders and equestrian personalities have not only given their time, but some fascinating insights into their training and lifestyles, too.

    It wasn’t always the case. During the “golden age” of showjumping, I remember once being at a show with Harvey Smith when a reporter came up and asked him for an interview. “How much brass [money] am I getting?” was Harvey’s opening line…

    Ben Maher was incredibly generous with his time for Will’s podcast. He even revealed that, despite all his recent success, he’d been struggling with a bad back following a nasty fall. Ben had an operation at the beginning of this year which kept him out of the ring for three months, but added that for the first time in seven years, he’s now waking up pain-free.

    Laura Renwick explained how she incorporates jump-off turns and jumping across fences into her training, even on young horses. I’ve since noticed both our boys practising the same.

    When Scott Brash was asked who had given him the best piece of advice, he recalled attending a training course as a young rider with Irish former Hickstead Derby winner John Ledingham.

    Scott said he became very frustrated with the horse he was riding, and asked John what to do. To which John replied: “Get off it and think why it was getting stressed, work out a solution and then try again.”

    How right he was… and how well I remember as a 19-year-old riding at Dublin Horse Show with the all-time great Italian Raimondo D’Inzeo. I watched him on the first day riding Bellevue, and couldn’t believe it when he had six fences down.

    But instead of showing his frustration with his horse, Raimondo calmly gave him a pat as he left the arena, got off and went to watch the rest of the class.

    Later in the day, I saw him quietly schooling Bellevue. He schooled him again the following day. On the third day, it all came to fruition – and he won the grand prix.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 28 May 2020

    You may also be interested in…