Steve Hadley: Showjumping has exploded but will the supply of horses remain? *H&H VIP*

  • I can’t believe how showjumping has exploded over the past 10 years. It’s gone through the roof in every way.

    The standard of the sport is brilliant whenever you watch, although quite how long it can be sustained at this level with the amount of horses available remains to be seen. There are so many more opportunities to jump at top level, it’s a real possibility horses will become in short supply.

    I’ve just come back from the 14th leg of the Global Champions Tour (GCT) in Vienna, which was the second of two fabulous venues in succession. The new facility in Rome was superb — Jan Tops himself acknowledged it was “special”.

    Vienna is also an unbelievable location, with the show staged right in front of the town hall — a huge, gorgeous piece of architecture you can’t take your eyes off.

    Running concurrently is the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup, with the final in Barcelona looming later this week. It’s another competition that owes a lot to Middle Eastern money and it has a prize pot everyone wants to get their hands on.

    We’re a month or so past the European Championships, which were riveting in another wonderful venue in Aachen. While we have impressive new arenas, the established venues retain their appeal.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in the television coverage of the GCT and FEI TV, so I have been able to see it all at first hand. It’s something I couldn’t have envisaged 10 years ago, how everything would have just blossomed the way it has with an influx of sponsorship and new venues. Next year there are several new developments including the Global Champions League team competitions, which will again take the sport to another level.

    We have more nations coming into the sport and doing it very successfully — Turkish rider Omer Karaevli was third in the Vienna Masters, while Qatar is another country making its presence felt in major competition.

    Individually, Scott Brash’s recent win in Calgary was a phenomenal achievement. He is one of the top three riders very close in the race for who will head the GCT. Scott is in the lead, with Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Luciana Diniz only a few points behind. That will go right to the wire with another huge prize fund on offer in Doha in November.

    Against this backdrop, I found the decline in terrestrial and mainstream television coverage strange at first. However, there is so much showjumping live-streamed and we are all becoming more computer-savvy — it is great to see the global television coverage growing on satellite and cable TV.

    We have a massive audience of people worldwide that watch the major showjumping championships, and the services are free or cost very little. They can watch any equestrian sport they like and as much as they want.

    Showjumping might have been standing still for many years, but it certainly isn’t any more.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 24 September 2015