William Funnell: Heading to be a nation of amateurs *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Brexit negotiations are rarely out of the news these days and unless professional showjumpers have better reasons to stay in the UK, we’re likely to see increasing numbers moving to Europe.

    It’s already tough for us — apart from the big shows such as Olympia, Windsor and Hickstead, to compete at a decent level already requires a boat ride. But add to that the potential logistical nightmare of a hard border between Great Britain and the Continent and the problem is compounded yet further.

    But we’re also at risk of isolating ourselves more by being second-rate at what we do. I don’t wish to knock Keysoe because, alongside Addington and Arena UK, these are exactly the sort of venues we need, but advertising your two-star grand prix for 2.30pm then not starting it until 6.30pm is not a great way to promote it, especially to owners who have turned up to watch their horse. It was a real let-down in an otherwise good job and just goes to show that even our best centres don’t hold a candle to the likes of the big venues in Europe which manage to hold regular two-star shows throughout the year.

    How are they earning a living out of professionals, particularly those from the UK, while ours cannot? With our centres being charged higher and higher business rates by the government, the last thing organisers need is for riders to be dashing off to Europe instead of competing on home soil.

    Provide for the pro riders

    This is where we need British Showjumping (BS) to step up and support the professional riders more. My average bill to compete with BS is £800 a month — £10k a year — and I don’t see them doing anything to help in return. At the moment, it seems that it is only the amateur end of the sport that is being promoted — but the tail should not be wagging the dog.

    But I can understand why this is happening; I don’t see one professional rider on the committees who knows about making a living out of the equestrian business and can provide that vital input.

    Unless BS provide what the professionals want and need, it’ll give the likes of myself, Scott Brash and so on just one more reason why moving to Europe would be the easier option. They need to do more than just encourage us to join in and start promoting the top end of the sport, as well as giving foreigners a reason to come to Great Britain.

    Where do people go to purchase horses? Europe, because that’s where all the professionals are. We also need people to want to come to train with us here — part of training is buying horses, part of buying horses is surviving, and surviving means you can keep better horses for longer. Training promotes excellence.

    But BS seems hell-bent on lowering the fences and, ultimately, lowering the standard of riding and quality of horses by trying to cater for having a larger membership. If all BS wants is a nation full of amateurs then they’re going the right way about it.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 7 December 2017