William Funnell: ‘The BEF is our voice – why was nothing said?’


  • H&H showjumping columnist William Funnell speaks out on British Equestrian’s inaction on submitting feedback directly to the FEI for a planned review of the current Olympic format, and looks forward to London International Horse Show at ExCeL

    WITH only a month to go until the London International Horse Show kicks off at its new home at ExCeL London (16–20 December), I enjoyed a visit to this new venue. I think the show is going to be bigger and better than ever this year.

    Of course, we’ll miss the iconic Olympia building and all the tradition behind it, but when you look at how tough the logistics are to run the show there, there’s a lot to like about ExCeL.

    The building is 1km long and we can use as much of it as we need, meaning there’s much more space for a start. There are 16 hotels nearby, a bigger collecting ring with a lot more going on around it, they can accommodate more spectators, a bigger shopping village, loads of on-site parking and fantastic hospitality.

    There’s also enough room for the showjumpers to have their own exercise area, as well as the collecting ring; the frenetic atmosphere at Olympia from 6am until midnight with the Household Cavalry galloping past inches away from the back of the horses’ stables, in the midst of everything else going on, was really tough on the horses.

    Although British grooms like Olympia because of the tradition and festive spirit, for the foreign grooms life at ExCeL will be a whole lot easier because the lorries can be parked on site, you can drive right in to unload the horses and their hotel is just a short walk away.

    The arena itself will be 5m wider – Olympia’s long and narrow ring meant you had to jump across it to change the rein, which was hard on the horses, and it was difficult to build interesting courses.

    Better competitions will add to the entertainment and with lots of the top-10 riders in the world competing, there’s always going to be good sport.

    So while Olympia was ideal for those people who enjoyed a Christmas trip to London with a bit of shopping thrown in, ExCeL will be a much better experience for those of us working and I hope it will continue to grow.

    Who knows, maybe the show will have outgrown the Olympia venue before it returns. It’s going to be at least 2024 before the refurbishments there are finished, so let’s embrace its new home, which clearly has so much to offer.

    Getting back in the saddle

    IT’S been a tough few months since I broke my leg in a fall in June but I’ve had the London International as my goal while making my return to the saddle.

    Doctors originally told me it would be six months, possibly up to a year, before I’d be riding again, so I’ve been working hard to get to this stage, including swimming 1km every morning and cycling, too.

    So although I can’t run or walk too far, it’s definitely easier to be back riding and it was a case of now or never if I was going to make it to London. So I did my first two-star at Lier followed by Peelbergen last week and it’s going well – I’m still reasonably able to follow the horses anyway!

    “A sense of disbelief”

    There was a sense of disbelief when it emerged that Great Britain was one of the few countries who hadn’t submitted feedback to the FEI for a planned review of the new Olympic format. I understand that comment was instead sent via a European Equestrian Federation questionnaire.

    British Equestrian (BEF) is supposed to be our voice and point of contact when it comes to Olympic matters and everybody within the industry knew the report had to be done – and it was the BEF’s job to do it – so why wasn’t it done? We need answers.

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 18 November

    Do you have any favourite memories of the London International Horse Show at Olympia that you would like to share with fellow H&H readers? Send them to us via email at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, local town and county for the chance to be featured on the letters page in the magazine and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger.

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