Showjumping has definitely gone global, centralising in Europe where most tours are based and supported by bread-and butter two-stars in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
As an island, we just can’t compete with what the Continent has to offer — the appeal of Europe isn’t just the prize money, it’s also a marketplace for the horses.
Tours are expensive but I have found a compromise at our local show centre in Wellington, Hampshire, which runs shows outdoors over the winter. We can warm up indoors if needs be and it provides a good competition experience for novices up to 1.40m.It’s something I would be happy to see more of because showjumping is a great outdoor sport — even if it’s not the best of weather, a two-minute round in an outdoor arena is fine. We do, after all, play rugby, hockey and football outside throughout the year.
I like riding in a bigger arena where you can have more open, flowing courses rather than tight, awkward spaces. If a venue had more than one ring, even with the shorter winter days you could get enough done.
We could run a spring or autumn tour out of one of these venues. Having a workmanlike tour is a way forward for our winter circuit, and it works successfully in Sweden and other nations with comparable climates.
A couple of outdoor arenas and a bar is a good basic formula, and it’s more of an affordable option for centres than building a state-of-the-art indoor arena that won’t be used after April.
‘All about encouragement’
My daughter Emily is jumping in 128cm classes and I was surprised by how tough some of the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifiers were. We tend to build square oxers in Britain and I noticed at Dublin last year that theirs were more rampy and inviting.
Square oxers can cause problems for the smaller ponies, especially if they get in deep at a combination and can’t jump out.
It’s all about encouragement when the children are nine or 10 years old and while you don’t want to drop the standard, we could build the oxers a bit more sensibly, even if the verticals were taller.
A legend in the making
Ben Maher’s Explosion W was a clear favourite to win the super grand prix in Prague at the end of last year, where I had the pleasure to be commentating.
There had been a lot of speculation about the partnership and whether the ride would stay with Ben, so the news the horse had been sold but that he will be keeping the ride for the British team was a relief for everyone.
The horse is already up there with the greats — the partnership is well on its way to going down in history alongside Nick Skelton and Big Star or John Whitaker and Milton. Fingers firmly crossed now for Tokyo.
Ref Horse & Hound; 23 Janaury 2020