The Irish team along with 6 other nations battled the elements on Friday last to compete in the third leg of the Furusiyya Nations Cup series (read news story here). The FEI, together with the course designer, ensured the course was built with the ground conditions taken into consideration. As the horses’ wellbeing is our number 1 priority, we were happy that the decision to jump was the right one, as the lines were straight forward and there was no treble or water jump. It was far from ideal, but not dangerous whatsoever, which was proven by the fact that there were no injuries and all the Irish team horses came out of the competition 100% sound.
The German team opted not to jump, which caused some controversy as under the current rules they will not now be allowed a place in the final in Barcelona this September. That was of course a choice for them and they will have to live with the consequences. However it does throw up a few debates that should be teased out. Firstly, St Gallen is a wonderful show but the excuse that it rained so hard recently is not acceptable in these times. Top-end showjumping is big business and in one way I can’t blame people who may not want to jump in less than top class conditions. The choice facing the St Gallen show is either to improve the footing so that it’s as good as Hickstead and Dublin, or relocate to a sand arena and consider changing their show date. Torrential rain has plagued the show on this date on-and-off for over a decade.
The other point worth looking at, is if it were a 300k Grand Prix would there have been as much talk about the weather? Personally, I don’t think so. I think all competitors would have togged off, but the excuse of only jumping for points and less prize money was a good scapegoat for keeping one’s powder dry in order to chase the big bucks in the coming weeks. In other words the FEI must really focus on making the Nations Cups the best shows in the world both through good venues, top money and offering a lot more ranking points - all incentives that will turn the balance in favour of these great traditional events. Don't get me wrong, shows like the Global Tour have revolutionised the sport and included a global awareness of top class showjumping. But I think that the Nations Cup shows are fantastic as they have loads of competitive classes, and attract a huge audience daily, as opposed to other shows which really only focus on the Grand Prix.
Obviously we all want the best conditions possible, but it seems that some riders give out less about poor warm up arenas, cramped stabling conditions or other imperfect facilities at the big prize-funded individual shows, while the team shows get a bashing if anything is out of place. The responsibility lies with the sport’s governing body to raise the game and make team jumping what it used to be - the pinnacle of the sport. It will be interesting to see how this series plays out, but the thinkers behind it would need a wake-up call. We must make the game easy to follow. It's far too complicated that even the riders and equestrian press are struggling to make sense of it! Keep it simple would be my advice on coming up with something that works. Seeking audiences from outside the sport is always a challenge, but will remain a distant dream if the ordinary Joe public can’t follow it. For me it’s crazy to have a competition that some guys win, but whose points don't count! It’s impossible for people watching at home to make sense of it all. Globalisation is important and we must strive to be inclusive, but not at the expense that no-one, including ourselves understand the competition!
My top horses have a break this week, but I travel to Lisbon to help Ross who will be riding Carpe Diem on the Irish Team this Friday.
Check back next week for more news,