Stuart Reeve-Young: No show centre can be perfect *H&H Plus*


  • One thing I’ve learnt from my involvement with different centres is that you can’t please everyone all the time. From ground conditions to stabling and prize money, not every show suits every rider.

    When I first started showjumping, there were few indoor centres and everyone wanted to compete there because they were new. Outdoor surfaces were unheard of. But now the sport has moved on and riders want big all-weather arenas. Surfaces also go in and out of fashion, with wax popular one year and out the next.

    However, it’s not just riders in Britain who have differing expectations. I worked in Italy where the main arena was grass on volcanic sand. Half the world’s top riders said it was the best they had ridden on and the other half hated it.

    ‘Try to be the best’

    No show centre can be perfect but we try to be the best we can. You could compare us with supermarkets — budget stores sell cheaper brands that are liked by many, while other people stick to more exclusive shops.

    These are tough times for British show centres. On one side are commercial venues paying industrial rates that have to be run as businesses. On the other are centres that are part of colleges, charities, racing and polo. These usually don’t pay rates and are eligible for grants.

    You also cannot compare a British centre with a foreign model. European centres don’t have crippling rates and are funded mainly by the region. They are classed as agricultural and can claim back 50% of the cost of buildings and arenas.

    Can we compete?

    I was interested to read James Fisher’s suggestion in H&H of spring outdoor tours, but I fear that this may be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

    People love tours in Spain and Portugal for the sunny weather and glamour, as well as for the huge range of classes for amateurs to top riders. However, I’m not sure whether Britain could compete.

    It might be possible to try this on a national level, but centres would have to liaise and British Showjumping (BS) work in partnership with them. But then maybe it’s time for BS and organisers to form a working party to help raise standards and look for funding opportunities to make it happen?

    Ref Horse & Hound; 30 January 2020