Show jumping insights . . .

  • Peter Gillespie has run the successful Vicarage Farm show centre in Surrey for 19 years. A member of the BSJA board for the past eight years and a former chairman of the association, he is also a director of show organising company Scope Promotions. Since 1964, Peter has owned a number of show jumpers, although none has competed at top level.

    Why course-design? It wasn’t premeditated. I’d never even considered doing anything like it. It came about when someone asked me to build at a show in the 1970s. I realised how much I enjoyed it and everything progressed from that.

    Did you compete? I did 25 years ago, and I thought I wasn’t a bad rider then. However, by today’s standards I suppose I was pretty poor.

    What do you like about the sport? Winning isn’t down to a judge’s opinion, but on a performance everyone can see.

    And dislike? The influence of big money has taken show jumping away from where it started. For many riders, it was a hobby they could enjoy and not end up too much out of pocket, even if they didn’t win. Today, everything is so expensive. Too many people in the sport rely on it to make a living and they just cannot do that and survive.

    Funniest moment? Steve Williams [a fellow designer] emptying a water bowser all over me at Richmond Show. I shouted at him to start watering straight away, and he took me a bit too literally. I was one of the organisers and was dressed for the occasion in smart pinstripe suit. I got drenched in the middle of the arena, to the great joy of a large crowd.

    Most admired rider? Harvey Smith. He brought so much personality into the sport. We’ve never filled that gap.

    Most admired horse? Milton — the first horse to win a million. Before that, we had lots of household names such as Vibart, Stroller and Penwood Forgemill, but Milton was the ultimate personality. Nothing has taken his place.

    Favourite UK venue? There’s no such thing as the perfect venue and I enjoy building wherever I go. While I have no favourite, each is strong in one area, such as going, organisation, layout, and catering or even social events. I don’t think any one venue has everything, but perhaps one day it will happen.

    Favourite international venue? Eleven years ago, I went to America and was impressed by what I saw in Oklahoma. They had air conditioning in the arenas and stables, numerous arenas and a brilliant layout and organisation. The Americans treated everybody as a valued asset.

    What would you change? The sport has to be run as a business and brought into the 21st century. Show jumping must become more appealing to the public, not just to those already involved in it. Hopefully, we can then reap the benefits of becoming a more attractive option for owners and sponsors.

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