William Funnell: selection and extra places at Rio *H&H VIP*

  • It is the time of year when team managers decide which four legs of the 2016 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cups they would like to pick as their nation’s qualifying competitions for the final. For next year’s series there will be a whole different agenda as the main focus falls on selecting a team for Rio.

    As Britain finished runners-up last year, Di Lampard has been one of the first to select, choosing three Nations Cups — La Baule, Rome and Rotterdam — before our compulsory home CSIO at Hickstead, as the ones that will count for points. Two of which, Rome and Rotterdam, are on a surface, as is Rio. Rotterdam will be the last before Di makes her final Olympic selection.

    All riders who want to be considered will have to be selected and perform in these early Nations Cups, so good form at the start of the year is essential.

    The earlier the riders can show their hand in Nations Cups, the easier it is then to let them follow their own agenda to produce their horses for Rio. It worked well this year — Joe Clee jumped early enough on a Nations Cup team that he could then build his horse’s confidence around two-star tracks ahead of the Europeans.

    On the subject of Rio, the Irish team’s appeal is set for 16 December.

    An “act of god” is outside interference and someone running across and tripping on some flowers in front of you is arguably inside interference.

    While Cian O’Connor was 15 strides from the fence, it clearly broke his rhythm and concentration and this matters round modern, technical courses. He took one more stride than he would have done and had he had not been as close, he might not have had it down. According to the FEI there should be a level playing field and there wasn’t. It shouldn’t happen at a place like Aachen.

    It would be sad for Ireland not to qualify — they have three or four of the best horses they’ve had in years — but also sad to lose Spain, who qualified instead. I hope the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) can offer an extra place to Ireland and then everyone will be happy.

    It’s a shame when the criteria for Olympic qualification means that one mistake can lose a country its place. In Belgium’s, one bad day in Aachen has meant that they won’t be going to Rio — despite demonstrating they are the best team in the world by winning the Nations Cup final in Barcelona.

    Transfer window

    December is an interesting month in a pre-Olympic year. By 15 January, the owner or joint-owner of a horse must be the same nationality as the country for which it competes at the Olympics. It makes it a busy time for horse-trading.

    Michael Whitaker has seen two of his potential Olympic horses sold, both Velini and Calcourt Falkland going to Ukraine. There are tough choices to be made. You can make a mint but you can’t have the money and go to the Olympics.

    The joys of hunting

    How refreshing it was to see a picture of Tina Cook’s daughter Isabelle out hunting (report, 19 November). Nowadays we often see kids specialising too early and missing out on having fun. For Pippa and me, hunting was a great way to help learn feel and balance.

    I used to have a pony that cat-jumped me off. Because my dad was a huntsman, the whipper-in looked after me. One day I fell off seven times — the whipper-in just picked me up by my collar and put me back on. It took a while, but eventually I learned some stickability.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 December 2015