William Funnell: Time is running out for Rio *H&H VIP*

  • We won’t know the importance of the British team’s victory in the Rome Nations Cup until after the Rio Olympics. But we do know that all the big-hitting nations had Rome as a counting competition for the super league and, having talked to those who were there, it was the biggest course and toughest test we’ve had so far.

    With this in mind, the British win will be a big boost for Di Lampard and the riders.

    Only one more CSIO5* Nations Cup (Rotterdam, 22-26 June) remains before the team needs to be selected. We’ve probably seen most of the combinations who will be in the reckoning.

    It was great to see Ben Maher come out with his new ride Tic Tac. From his performance in Rome, it looks like the horse could be a strong prospect for him — and he certainly gives Ben another option for Rio.

    For John Whitaker, superlatives run out. He remains the one that any up-and-coming young riders should be watching. Ornellaia was a little sticky through the first few fences, and to see John work the horse between hand and leg but without pressure was a masterclass.

    I spoke to Nick Skelton, who said that in 40 years of travelling with John, he’d never seen him ride better.

    To be 60 years old and still improving is quite something.

    Nick is another rider who is still demonstrating his talent heading towards his sixth decade. His performance with Big Star in La Baule spoke for itself — in spite of it being his first outing at five-star level in nine months.

    We haven’t, however, seen Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos since March. As Rotterdam is the final event before selection, let’s hope we see them soon. Our Olympic team would definitely be a better one with Scott and Sanctos on board.

    I’m for leaving

    The referendum is looming, but what do we really have to be frightened of?

    The first thing that we think of when we compete across Europe is crossing borders — we older riders remember when they were closed and at every one you had to stop and get forms stamped.

    That won’t happen again. It’s possible that they could re-establish customs when we head into Europe, but it’s not in anyone’s interests and I think it’s highly unlikely.

    Our farmers are already struggling and, obviously for them, losing the EU subsidies will be a problem. But swathes of Britain have been bought up by wealthy landowners who often leave land sitting idle. From my point of view, it makes it difficult to find grazing, and if losing subsidies encourages people to use land as it is meant to be used, then that can only be a good thing.

    In the short-term, leaving the EU might weaken the pound but, over the past year or two, the high value of the pound against the euro has made it difficult to export.

    The only way round that for my business has been to lower the price of our horses to match their equivalent value in Europe.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 2 June 2016