William Funnell: ‘no opportunities for riders based on merit alone — the GCT is increasingly elitist’ *H&H VIP*

  • It was lovely only to have to drive across a bridge to reach an international show last week — even if we did have to pay to enter Wales. 

    I have to applaud the Broomes for such a well-run Chepstow International — the ground was super.

    I was impressed with the standard of jumping there, especially among the juniors and young riders.

    With Rio fast approaching and future championship teams in mind, it’s good to know that new combinations are coming through. But how can we help elevate these talented juniors to be there for the next Olympics?

    The advent of the Global Champions League team jumping has made the Global Champions Tour (GCT) increasingly elitist.

    Unless a rider has two top-class grand prix horses, they have no chance of making the top 30 on the rankings list [required to compete at the GCT unless riders can pay to enter].

    Two world-class horses of the right age can cost from £1m up to £10m apiece. Therefore to secure a place in the top 30, major investment is required. There are no opportunities based on merit alone. 

    So how do we encourage owners to back the talent of tomorrow?

    For me, the razzmatazz or prize money of the GCT can’t compare to the honour and buzz of representing your country. The camaraderie of a British team is incomparable: contributing to a team gold in Herning at the 2013 European Championships remains one of my proudest moments.

    We need to do more to show owners how wonderful it can be to be part of a British team.

    I was pleased to hear that a team of young riders will go to Lisbon this year. Perhaps owners will feed off that buzz and invest in our sport.

    The famous five

    Let’s hope Leicester supporter Di Lampard has as much success with her team of showjumpers as with her football team this year.

    The cancellation of Lummen (28 April-1 May) has made it tricky to give all the potential Olympic pairs a run before a team is picked. The squad will need to be selected after Rotterdam (23-26 June), leaving only three superleague Nations Cups before Di names her five riders. It leaves her little scope for trialling new pairs.

    Nick Skelton and Big Star should be at La Baule (12-15 May), which is a huge plus — lets hope they make it to Rio.

    Much of my early season has involved training my pupil, Reiko Takeda, and I hope she will make the Japanese team for Rio.

    I have been spending some time with Paul Schockemöhle, who is Japan’s chef d’equipe. It was a huge boost for us when he bought 10 coverings by one of our young stallions, Billy Cointreau. We’ve been using his stallions on our mares for a while, so it was a shot in the arm for the Billy Stud — we must be doing something right if we’re sending semen from our stallions to Germany.

    The rise of Windsor

    I’m looking forward to Royal Windsor (11-15 May). With The Queen’s birthday celebrations and an upgrade to four-star, it should be a memorable one.

    A few years ago, it felt as if it was back to a national-level show, so to see it grow to four-star — is great news.

    There can’t be a better venue for patriotism and owners love to go. With decent prize money and five out of six classes eligible for rankings points, I’m hoping for a good show.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 12 May 2016