Steve Hadley: I’m simply in awe of the top riders *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Showjumping is a wonderful sport to be involved in these days and it’s mind-blowing how much it’s changing. The standard just gets higher and higher and I’m simply in awe watching top riders competing these days.

    The Global Champions Tour has undoubtedly played a part in the sport’s expansion — this season has been fantastic and it continues to set new benchmarks. The series is now escalating at such a rate in terms of popularity and the quality of riders who want to jump there.

    I interviewed Edwina Tops-Alexander in 2014 and I asked her then: “How can it get any better than this?” and yet it’s kept improving and become even more richly endowed. But you see it at every show, every tour, around the world — showjumping has really taken off.

    ‘Those at the top make it look easy’

    Riders are continually refining their game and if I were to pick out four or five of my favourites to enjoy watching, it wouldn’t be fair to another 30 or 40 riders because they’re all so damn good.

    Every top sportsman makes their job look easy and they always seem to have a lot of time to do it — Roger Federer just oozes elegance on a tennis court and certain golfers are the same. World-class showjumpers now have the same qualities.

    But the world’s best are only separated by what they’re riding — nowadays, at the top level, you have to be sitting on something out of the ordinary. We saw in Doha just how seriously big the courses are these days and yet so many combinations made it look easy. The modern showjumping horse is a completely different animal to that of even 10 years ago, so much more refined and all about quality.

    But the Tour also offers fantastic opportunities for under-25 riders. In the past, it used to take a genius, like John or Michael Whitaker, to make an impact as a teenager, but now we see hugely talented young riders from many different countries who already possess the style and ability to compete at the highest level. These are exciting times.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 November 2017