Fears that Britain’s show jumpers might fall behind their international rivals have prompted the British Show Jumping Association (BSJA) to implement a new performance delivery plan.
The plan was drawn up after a five-month consultation with the British Equestrian Federation (BEF). It centres around four areas — competition planning; horse and rider development; relations with owners, sponsors, BSJA members and the public, and competition support, which includes coaches, grooms and vets.
BEF performance director Will Connell explained: “We sat down with the BSJA and looked at how the sport internationally is moving on, and decided we’d be left behind if we didn’t move with it.”
The plan borrows heavily from the World Class programme, where riders and horses identified by the BEF as having medal-winning potential are given advice and training to develop. But Mr Connell said it is not enough.
“The World Class programme is excellent, but we need to extend that support,” he said. “We want to give more people a chance and I believe this new plan will do that.”
Issues currently being looked at include enhancing communication between riders and vets and planning more training sessions at under-21 level. The British Young Horse Championships, which will be staged in full for the first time this year, are also part of the plan.
But Mr Connell admitted that some aims — such as attracting new owners into show jumping — would take time to achieve.
He said that there was a worrying reliance on the same riders for Britain’s international team, but denied that the plan was being introduced solely to identify potential medallists for the 2012 Olympics.
“The Olympics are important,” he said, “but it’s about looking at the whole of show jumping.”
This view was echoed by BSJA chief executive Jacky Woods.
“This plan isn’t just about helping riders — course-designers, owners, coaches and shows will all be supported, too,” she said. “For example, we want to give our course-designers more experience of building international courses.”
BSJA head of training Di Lampard threw her weight behind the plan.
“We have a lot of talent out there, but riders often need direction,” she told H&H. “This plan supports the whole of the sport — show jumping in this country needs pulling together.”
This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (29 March, ’07)