Sam Hutton: Why experience counts *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    It was an up-and-down day for the British team at the Nations Cup in St Gallen at the weekend. Both Holly Smith and William Whitaker jumped double clears and I felt we were unlucky to produce a total of five clears but finish only fifth — you’d usually expect a better result from that sort of performance.

    It’s an amazing feeling to have a British team call-up and Nations Cups are a totally different kind of jumping. Although I’ve jumped on a five-star team at Gijon, this was my first “super league” team and — other than knowing it was all about the double clears — I wasn’t sure what to expect.

    My horse, Happydam, had jumped really well in the grand prix and then had a day off, which in hindsight had left him a bit fresh. He was strong in the first round, where the time was very tight, leaving us with 17 penalties.

    Unfortunately, my penalties had to count as Louise Saywell’s horse — Golden Wave OL — was naughty at the water and she was eliminated, which was a real shame. He’d jumped it in the grand prix, but when the direction was changed and new boards were added, it was enough to put him off.

    Fortunately, my horse came back into the ring far more settled and jumped a clear in the second round — I was so happy as I had felt terrible about our first one. He’s a horse with a lot of blood, and I thought in the end he jumped unbelievably.

    All in all, it wasn’t a bad show for the British. Harriet Nuttall finished third in the grand prix on A Touch Imperious, having jumped one of only three double clears, just adding a time-fault. Her Nations Cup horse, Galway Bay Jed, wasn’t quite right so she missed out on jumping on the Sunday.

    Like a lot of the Swiss shows, St Gallen is slickly organised and they try hard to keep everyone happy. It can be wet there, but we had lovely warm weather, the footing was perfect and the prize money was good.

    It’s a big arena and it can be difficult to feel the atmosphere as much as at smaller shows, but you can still hear the crowd cheering. That said, the atmosphere was fantastic for the Nations Cup and the grand prix. The crowd was as happy to support riders from other nations as they were the Swiss.

    The British team spirit was also great and both Di Lampard and Tina Goosen, who comes to all the super league Nations Cups to look after organisation and owners, did a good job. The feeling is that we have some exciting new horses and new riders coming through, and it will be interesting to see how this season pans out.

    A brilliant chance

    I’ve been based in Belgium for six years now and I’m lucky to have 20 international shows within two hours of home.

    There are venues holding two-stars every month, in between national and training shows.

    That said, being based in Europe isn’t a huge advantage when it comes to team selection. We travel to the same shows as everyone else and there are good shows in England, too.

    It’s difficult for most people to get into a five-star unless you’re on a team, so jumping on a Nations Cup is a brilliant chance to get experience of this kind of pressure.

    Although he’s proved himself enough over big grand prix tracks to be selected, my horse is relatively green at this height, so it’s good to have had the opportunity. Hopefully with this experience, next time we can produce two clear rounds.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 7 June 2018