John Whitaker: Some venues really need to up their game *H&H Plus*


  • I read with interest Pennie Cornish’s comment in last week’s Horse & Hound (14 November) regarding the state of British showjumping, before seeing with sadness that this week’s scheduled CSI2* at Keysoe had been cancelled due to lack of entries.

    Was it because there was no wild card on offer to Liverpool International as there had been the previous year? Was it because people were late entering? Did riders not realise it had two world ranking classes? Or, did people just not know it was on?


    The fact is we have some excellent show centres in this country and desperately need more international shows, but we are seeing many struggling to survive, unable to make it pay with the burden of huge rates and seemingly lots of red tape.In Europe, various subsidies are given towards equestrian sport which definitely helps. I am currently competing in Spain at the CES Valencia Autumn Tour along with several other British riders, and it is just one of the many examples of why foreign show centres offer a better experience.

    On arrival, you are greeted at the stables and helped to unload. The parking is on hard-standing with power points readily available. Stables are in large tents — with lighting! And courses are much more rider- and horse-friendly. The facilities tend to be better for owners, grooms and spectators, and the show offices are friendly, where you are greeted with a smile.

    Up their game

    I know many show centres back home do try very hard, but some could try better and some really do need to up their game. They should have a look at some of the foreign centres to see what classes are on offer, and how they are run — even down to how they do their harrowing and look after the ground.

    We also have plenty of stewards at shows who, rather than only checking horses’ boots and watching the jumps in the collecting ring, could be more useful making sure the surface is harrowed and raked to keep it fit for horses to jump on, both in the collecting ring and the arena.

    A grading system according to the facilities at each show centre would help competitors and give the venues an incentive to improve.

    Maybe BS could offer an incentive for even further improvement, such as a wild card for Liverpool or Horse of the Year Show at the venue, voted for by the riders, which has most improved its facilities.

    In the mean time, and with little to no shows at home offering a decent level of jumping until Liverpool, I shall be enjoying my time in Spain.

    Action woman

    On another note, the equestrian world has its very own action woman in the form of Pippa Funnell — one minute she is riding 10 horses at Bolesworth Young Horse Championships, the following week she is winning team gold at the European Championships before coming back to win Burghley. So please, everyone vote for her to win the BT Sport Action Woman of the Year Award 2019 — voting closes on 1 December.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 21 November 2019

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