Could winter sun reap rewards for showjumpers at Greenwich?

  • Britain has not won an Olympic team medal in showjumping since bringing home silver from Los Angeles in 1984.

    To find the last time we won an individual medal, you have to go back even further – to 1972, when Ann Moore won silver.

    But Rob Hoekstra hopes to end the drought next year, by building on the success of Team GB’s team and individual bronze at this summer’s European Championships .

    Now Rob will send a whole squad to the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (11 January-1 April) in Florida, and will fly out at intervals to train the team.

    Florida has hosted the world’s biggest and best-funded showjumping series at Wellington for decades, involving 12 weeks of top-class jumping for big prize-money.

    Nick [Skelton] and Scott [Brash] went to Florida this year and will be there again, but we expect up to four other riders will join them there,” said Rob.

    BEF World Class performance director Will Connell told H&H: “It’s very important early season training.

    “There is a very short season before Olympic selection so it’s important for our riders to jump some 1.60m courses early on – and to be able to do that without travelling around is very useful.”

    Tina Fletcher and Ben Maher are top of Rob Hoekstra’s list to travel to Florida and he is in discussion with the owners and riders of a number of other horses.

    The trip will be part-funded by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF), but will rely heavily on owners being prepared to stump up the cash.

    Rob said Nick and Scott will go for most of the festival and some of the other riders will travel over a couple of weeks before the $75,000 ( £47,000) Nations Cup (29 February-4 March), returning to the UK a week afterwards.

    They will be based at the Wellington showground, which is close to Palm Beach, for the duration of the festival.

    “We are partly going because of the Nations Cup and particularly because it’s the best way to get riders into the frame for London,” said Rob.

    “But the riders going to Florida will not necessarily be our potential Olympic team – others who have more experience will probably get ready on the European circuit in Spain and Italy.”

    This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse and Hound (17 November, 2011)

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