Relegation from division one of the Nations Cup series is a serious issue for British showjumping and our first priority is to get back in.
It impacts in several ways: we’ve lost opportunities for our up-and-coming riders to gain valuable experience of jumping on a “super league” team. It will also mean that five British riders don’t get their gateway into a five-star show.
It will be interesting to see how many of the top riders who’ve had the luxury of jumping at these great shows now want to go to the lesser ones and put in hard graft to get us back in the top division. The five-star Nations Cups are a valuable series with good money, good grands prix and good world rankings points.
Although we will still be able to jump in our home Nations Cup next year, it won’t be for points. While we should always try to win at Hickstead, we’ll be better off putting stronger teams into the lower league.
The only advantage it will hold for us will be giving newer combinations the chance to jump at a five-star show.
Did we put our best team forward at Hickstead last month? Absolutely not. Selection should work back from championships and our home Nations Cup. We knew it was critical that we did well.
I’m not a selector and it’s easier in hindsight, but I’d have used Rob Bevis and Courtney Z again. Why not use an in-form horse that had just jumped double clear over a tougher track than Hickstead? Diva II didn’t jump well for Ben Maher in Dublin so I’d have left her out.
Scott Brash’s best horse lately has been Ursula, so she should have been called up. I’d also have brought in John Whitaker and Argento.
When Hickstead was ideal for our horses, it had long poles and big fillers. For the Nations Cup they now use newer jumps and light poles. It would have suited a team of careful horses like those.
Irish seize the initiative
Ireland, conversely, finished second in the Nations Cup and won both big classes, thanks to some great riding from Billy Twomey and David Simpson.
The Irish really feel at home at Hickstead now. Since Shane Breen married Chloe Bunn,
it has turned into the Irish headquarters, and the guys use this to great advantage.
While speaking to Billy about his King George win, I asked him to pinpoint why Irish riders do well in this country and have attracted some great British owners such as John Hales and Michael Bates.
Billy believes it’s because the Irish riders always try to plan a horse’s future, and have a great work ethos. He says there’s often too much emphasis on galloping round normal classes rather than preparing the horse for the bigger picture.
We need incentives
In contrast, I spoke to William Whitaker at Bolesworth about how he was leaving the UK because of a lack of riding opportunities. He’s the one rider we shouldn’t lose — a hard worker and a great talent.
We need to make it attractive for owners to support British riders, and incentives for horses to be produced properly in this country. If we’re losing riders such as William while foreign riders are succeeding, then clearly we need to take control.
We’ve secured around £30k from World Class/UK Sport to support our youth teams, and it was a fight to obtain even this modest amount. Without investing in our young riders, it will be very hard to get back on the train in front.
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 August 2016