William Funnell: British Showjumping needs a structural shake-up *H&H VIP*

  • I’ve paid British Showjumping (BS) £13,300 including registration and entries in the past year, yet I still can’t jump my young horses in the right classes to produce them properly.

    Having spent five years on the executive board of BS, I know how difficult it is to bring about change. However, if they could provide us with more help to produce young horses, the impact would be felt all the way to the top of the sport.

    Four out of five of the last championship teams have included British-bred horses who were produced in the UK. It’s a great achievement and one of which we should be proud. But these horses were all produced by professionals who know how to do the job even with our current structure.

    They were all ridden up the ranks by the riders who rode them on the teams apart from Spirit T — who was produced by Louise Whitaker up to international level before Jessica Mendoza took on the ride.

    Producers of young horses know that racing youngsters against the clock against older horses — as the current system of newcomers and Foxhunters encourages us to do — will not produce them correctly for teams and Nations Cups.

    Height and age classes

    Credit should go to BS for the improvements we have seen in British breeding in the past 10 years. When they introduced the stallion levy and directed that income towards the breeders’ prizes at the young horse championships, it was a boost for the industry. A little bit of encouragement helps breeders to breed from good mares and stallions because at least they get some reward.

    When it comes to the correct production of horses, the only solution is to move to height and age classes to give people a clear indication of what they should be doing.

    When buyers can compare horses of the same age, it can also be a huge boost for marketing them — helping professional producers to earn a living from the sport.

    The demand is evident. Wales and West have put on a great schedule for the Welsh masters and their stabling is already sold out. Guess what? It’s all height and age classes.

    The amateur division is also very important to the sport, and they would be far better off if they had their own structure of classes.

    So many semi-pros and producers are being dragged down from the middle of the sport to the lower tiers, while the top end of the sport gets further out of reach.

    Show schedules now go down to 90cm classes, when we used to start with a newcomers, and finish with a 1.25m class, rather than a decent-sized open. The bottom end needs to be pulled up nearer the middle.

    Semi-pros and producers are the ones that help make the sport productive commercially; the only way to even the gaps will be to help all three tiers.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 17 March 2016