Congratulations to the all-female British team in the Nations Cup curtain opener in Florida. The trio took the powerhouse US team — also all women — to a jump-off on their home soil and only just missed out on taking the honours, proving a timely boost for British showjumping at the start of the series.
In Olympic years, these competitions are a hotbed of intrigue. Which combinations are finding form? Which nations look strongest? Which chefs d’équipe face a selection nightmare? With all roads leading to Tokyo, riders are in fierce competition for one of just three places on each of the streamlined Olympic teams.
But while those in Florida are displaying their potential team credentials in a seemingly honest and sportsmanlike manner, the “skulduggery” of a minority of riders, who are alleged to have earned world and Olympic ranking points through an unlevel playing field, resulted in ripples of discontent around show rings.
The FEI’s clarification of Olympic allocations came at the time of going to press, but at least some common sense seems to have prevailed and those representing their countries at the greatest show on earth will have earned their slot through fair play.
Great Britain may have three stand-out contenders for Tokyo in Scott Brash, Ben Maher and Holly Smith, but the performances from Alexandra Thornton, Amanda Derbyshire and Emily Moffitt in Florida proved that strength in depth is forming and every ticket to the Olympics will be hard fought.
With other riders from the Team GBR pool — including Ellen Whitaker, Jack Whitaker and James Wilson — being selected for the first time to jump on teams in this year’s Global Champions League (GCL), the door of opportunity has certainly swung wide open for them.
The benefits of regularly competing at the highest level at some of the world’s top shows, where entry for your “average” rider is often hard to grasp, and experiencing the high-pressure environment of a big-money team competition cannot be underestimated.
This could be an exciting year for British riders.
Ref Horse & Hound; 20 February 2020