The Furusiyya FEI five-star Nations Cups are always critical in a selection year, and this year’s series has now commenced with the first leg in Al Ain last weekend (17-20 February).
While Di Lampard may say she is happy with Britain’s result — finishing equal ninth of 11 teams — I suspect she may be disappointed to have gone all the way to Abu Dhabi with a World Class-funded team and not have made the second round.
It was predominantly a young, inexperienced team but you have to ask, with the World Class programme training and producing them, is this the best we can do? We finished equal to Syria.
Our young riders may have access to a lot of funded training, but what they really need is to go to more high-level shows at home and have better UK facilities to boost them on the way up.
Our Nations Cup performances will need to be better from now on. Di will be looking for combinations who can reliably produce a double clear on a given day. It doesn’t really matter what they do in between. The ability to produce clear rounds under pressure is vital if we want to be in medal contention for Rio, and the Nations Cups are the only real place where you can put it to the test.
In the run-up to Rio, the first major tests will be at Rome and Rotterdam, which is where the big guns are likely to come out.
The Olympics are on sand and they both have light coloured surfaces, which is important, and they always build technical and gutsy courses that need riding.
We really need the likes of Cella and Big Star, who is now back jumping in the US, to come back for these. Having those two in contention would make for a strong potential Olympic team alongside Hello Sanctos.
One lesson to be learnt from Beijing in 2008 however — where we ended up sending some horses who weren’t right — is that if horses don’t jump consistently and stay reliably sound, then it isn’t worth flying them all the way to South America.
Searching for iconic venue
The news that London has lost its Longines Global Champions Tour (GCT) leg this year is a blow, but don’t forget that we have two of the best show organisers in the world in Simon Brooks-Ward and Nina Barbour — so we will still showcase great top-level jumping in this country.
What the GCT now needs to come up with is an iconic venue in London, which is no easy task, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see somewhere round Battersea Power Station being a strong contender.
We only have to look out of our rear-view mirror to know these shows can work. We used to have great shows at Clapham Common, Wandsworth and Hyde Park.
If I were Jan Tops [GCT president], I’d be looking for a date on the August bank holiday, when people are looking for somewhere to go. That weekend is a classic date for British showjumping and has always pulled in the crowds.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 March 2016