With this being an Olympic year, my thoughts have turned to our World Class Programme and how it could be made into a more productive system.
I clearly remember four years ago, in the run-up to the London Games, asking [then British Equestrian Federation performance director] Will Connell for assistance in taking my horses on tour to Oliva in Spain.
When I put forward my plan — which did not involve going to Florida — I was told that only riders who signed up for that tour would be given funding for their trip [ahead of London 2012, UK Sport offered additional funding for horses competing in Florida].
With luck, this time around, money will be distributed more evenly to those horse and rider combinations who have specific ideas about their own training schedules in the run-up to Rio this year.
Not so long ago, Nick Skelton, Will Funnell and myself were taken off the World Class Programme. I pointed out that my best horse Odie De Frevent had picked up an injury in the Nations Cup at Falsterbo six months earlier, so she needed a year off. All my other horses were young, so I took a step back.
The same happened to Nick with Big Star, and to William. We’d all put in a lot of work for the team, then had the rug pulled from under us.
This sends out the wrong message to owners and sponsors alike.
It’s even worse for talented younger riders. Horses go lame or owners sell and they need to rebuild — usually with large overheads. The World Class Programme then says goodbye. Surely it’s better to help them promote themselves through their World Class association than to make it tougher by booting them off?
It would also be nice to see the World Class Programme backing our young riders by expanding Olympia’s under-23s championship into a proper “Young Lions” tour.
Giving riders exposure in the big rings at shows such as Hickstead, Olympia and Windsor would easily outshine the investment World Class makes in some of their training sessions.
Olympia supremo Simon Brooks-Ward told me if they were prepared to push for it, then he would accommodate it.
Broome with a view
David Broome had the vision 13 years ago to put in a new but untried show ring at Wales & West. It featured a watering system that pumps water into the sand from below and sucks it out. Many people thought he was daft because of the £300,000 price tag, but he created one of the best outdoor arenas in Britain.
Recently, they decided to replace the sand as they felt it had worn out, and used a different supplier. After speaking to David’s son Matt this week, he informed me they weren’t happy with it and have now gone back to the supplier of the original sand to replace the surface again — so it’s good to know we’ll have another 13 years of fantastic footing at Wales & West.
Not only does it highlight the massive commitment show centres put in, but it also offers a lesson in surface choice. For any show centre thinking of installing a sand arena, it’s not rocket science to know now that sand, fibre and water is the way to go outside.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 11 February 2016