William Funnell: Job done in Dublin, but why did we leave it so late? [H&H VIP]

  • The guys did a great job in Dublin to ensure Great Britain wasn’t relegated from the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup “super league”. To do it, we needed the maximum points and, thanks to the winners USA being there on an invitation, it was job done.

    Spencer Roe (pictured) is an old head on young shoulders and it is great to see how much he has grown in stature and confidence this year. With the pressure of jumping for a place on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) team, as well as super league qualification, he remained completely unfazed. I tried to think of some amusing stories to tell in this comment from the time he worked with us, but I’m afraid none of them were printable… But hopefully he’s done enough to secure a place as one of GB’s four riders who actually jump in the championships next month.

    But the question remains, why did we end up in a situation where so much was determined by our performance in Dublin? A busy calendar dictated that of course riders were going to have split loyalties with Hickstead, Dublin, the London Global Champions Tour (GCT) and WEG coming in quick succession.

    In hindsight, Rob Hoekstra should have used an earlier point-scoring round instead of Dublin because it made a complete debacle of Hickstead — not sending our best riders on their best horses to our home Nations Cup was a very poor decision if we’re trying to promote showjumping in this country.

    Ten years ago, the turnout on Hickstead’s Nations Cup day was terrible — nobody wanted to watch it. But the Olympics changed that and we’ve since had a full house for the competition. But people should expect to see our best combinations, including Hello Sanctos and Cella, on home soil. By half-time, when it became obvious we couldn’t win, the crowds diminished. And I can’t blame them. It was a complete own goal for British showjumping.

    Olympic qualification should be key

    What is crucial at WEG is securing a top five placing to ensure qualification for the 2016 Olympics. Team jumping is all about consistency and, as reigning Olympic and European champions, and with Ben, Scott and Joe Clee, who hasn’t had a bad round all season, you’d think that was achievable. Anything can happen though — even a couple of bad rounds would be enough.

    But getting that out the way would certainly leave the team hierarchy with one less thing to worry about. New blood can be brought in and get match practice instead of having to rely solely on the strongest members. Plan B — to qualify at the 2015 Europeans — will be a much tougher task, so getting our Olympic ticket this year should have been a bigger priority this year than staying in the super league.

    What is interesting is how many lame horses we have at this stage in the season — and not just in this country. They do so much these days and require so much more athletic ability than in previous years, so of course they are more likely to get injured.

    But Great Britain has fielded a team at every round of the super league and it’s taken its toll. We have simply run out of combinations. But then would Spencer have earned his place on the team if that hadn’t happened?

    Roll up to see our future Nations Cup horses

    The young horse championships take place at Addington this week. It’s an unfortunate clash with the London GCT so I’ll be commuting there when I can and hopefully competing in Sunday’s final.

    It’s a fantastic shop window for British breeding so perhaps our own riders should pay a visit instead of traipsing round Europe trying to find the next big thing.

    Congratulations to Keith Doyle who bred Bertram Allen’s Dublin grand prix winner Molly Malone V.  This mare is another example of this country breeding the best in the world.

    William’s column was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (14 August, 2014 issue)