British five-star showjumper Jodie Hall McAteer on competition format and an epic week at the “pinnacle of the year”
Over the past three years, the places I have travelled to thanks to this profession are unbelievable. My horses have more stamps in their passports than most people get in a lifetime!
But I’ve missed out on the action at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in recent years, so I couldn’t wait to be back doing what I love in front of a home crowd. It’s the pinnacle of the year for so many British showjumpers, and I truly hope that the national talent being showcased is one thing that never has to change.
If you’d asked me last week whether I’d have stood a chance of winning the grand prix with Hardessa, I’d have told you no. I wasn’t sure if we’d even be in it, we were just taking things day by day. But winning the leading showjumper of the year on the final day was one of my most special achievements to date because it was just so completely unexpected.
Camaraderie and excitement
The recent Nations Cup Final in Barcelona was incredible. Its beauty was in its simplicity: 40 riders in the final so it didn’t drag on, camaraderie, horsemanship and excitement to the end.
While Nations Cups are not championships, their history, prestige and the honour of donning your country’s jacket make them the closest thing to one. I’ll be interested to see if the series retains the same grandeur next year when it’s cut down to five events and rebranded the League of Nations.
A few years ago, I attended the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) general assembly in Geneva. I expressed my concern that having only three riders at future Olympics and no drop score not only has consequences for horse welfare, but it also limits any opportunities for younger riders to break through.
I was in Barcelona last year and jumped on Nations Cup teams this year in La Baule and Rome. Di Lampard has always been good at giving the next generation the opportunity to step up, but with just three riders on a team, selection will prioritise those with more experience. It’s a real barrier in this sport, where riders have such long careers.
No chance to bounce back
There are other ways in which format changes could take away younger riders’ ability to prove themselves. In the League of Nations, four riders will contest round one, with one drop score, and three riders, with all scores counting, return for the second leg.
In Barcelona, Lily Attwood posted the only clear for Britain in the final round, having had 12 faults in the opening leg. Had the new format already been in place, Lily may never have had the chance to bounce back, improve on her performance and show what she’s made of.
Showjumping’s growth is undeniable, with the emergence of so many different series. But, with so many shows on the calendar, how can organisers maintain prestige and encourage people to experience the action first-hand? I wonder how it will be possible to get the wider public interested in the sport when even as a rider I often struggle to follow what is going on.
From three-round grands prix to two-phase specials and accumulators, the list is endless. It’s no wonder crowds at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) and London are most enthusiastic for the puissance; the rule is simple, whoever jumps highest wins!
While I do not have all the solutions, there is definitely scope to streamline the sport, communicate the rules more effectively and entice crowds. Or perhaps I am intransigent to the inevitable evolution of showjumping.
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