William Funnell: The league is elitist and inaccessible *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    We have been hearing lately about attempts to bring European entry fees in line with USA [news, 20 April] which is about as ridiculous as the FEI’s constitution. When you consider that 80% of horses registered with the FEI come from Europe, the fact that every vaguely equestrian country from across the world has an equal vote on these rule changes makes it completely unrepresentative. Why are certain countries in Africa, for example, having a say in how we run our livelihood? It should be pro rata to the number of FEI horses registered.

    What they must also realise is that the whole US system is different to that in Europe — they simply don’t produce young horses there because it’s so expensive. The sport’s foundations are basically wealthy daughters who want a horse they can climb on and go and win prizes with the following day.

    Which draws us on to the Global Champions Tour. For years, the FEI were at loggerheads with Jan Tops over his plans to implement a team competition and not have pay cards for the show. But it seems as though they’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous — from taking it to court, to agreeing to do it Jan’s way. Jan has done a fantastic job for the sport, upping the prize money right across the board, but the Global Champions League has just made the circuit elitist and inaccessible to anyone outside the top 15 in the world rankings — unless you have a massive sponsor to stump up the €2million (£1.7m) required for each team to compete.

    Talent will count for nothing as even some of the world’s top riders won’t get in. Michael Whitaker had a fantastic result at the weekend [report p64] but even he will still be limited as to how many five-star shows he can get into this season. Even when we’re lucky enough to have the GCT coming back to London in August, I’ll be surprised if we have more than half a dozen British riders competing at our home show because of the restrictions.

    We can only hope the FEI makes the Nations Cups — both in the “super league” and in the lower tier — more attractive for riders to earn rankings points at. We need to give good riders another angle to come in from.

    Standing up for martingales

    Talking of unrepresentative committees, British Showjumping’s national sports committee is currently reviewing the rule regarding standing martingales in national competitions to bring the sport in line with international FEI rules. This council is supposed to have a spectrum of people on it, but how is a panel represented by only one rider able to make a decision on the use of tack?

    This new rule was drawn to my attention because for me, in the production of young horses, the standing martingale is one advantage we have in this country over Europe, where you’re not allowed to use them in the ring. In America you are allowed to use them nationally, the same as we are, and it works well.

    Used correctly, they are an excellent training aid that we use widely on young horses. Why has it even come up in committee that there was a problem with them? Surely that’s why we have stewards at shows.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 27 April 2017