Tag Archives: Ellen Whitaker

Imagery by © BEF / Jon Stroud Media

Horse Scout Opinion: What’s happening to British Showjumping?

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Showjumping was once the pride of the British nation. With a golden era spanning from the 1950s to the 1990s where Britain was consistently in the medals and the sport enjoyed a high television profile, riders like David Broome, Harvey Smith, Nick Skelton, and the Whitaker brothers were household names.

 

However, the sport started on a steady decline. Blamed largely to a shortage of horsepower and a crisis of management by the governing body, the lack of medals became a source of embarrassment to riders and followers. Suffering from a low profile led to many of Britain’s best horses being sold abroad. Tinkas Boy, a horse produced by Nick Skelton was sold to Swiss rider Markus Fuchs who went on to win four Championship medals including team silver in Sydney 2000.

 

Then in 2012, the British showjumping quartet of Nick Skelton, Peter Charles, Scott Brash, and Ben Maher put the sport back on the map by winning their first Olympic gold since 1952, in front of a rapturous London crowd. Nick Skelton continued to keep the dream alive when at the age of 58, he claimed the individual gold in Rio 2016- his seventh Olympic Games with the great Big Star.

 

But history repeats itself and recent results suggest a demise is once again occurring in the British camp. We are still not qualified for Tokyo 2020, with just two opportunities for qualification left.

 

This year we failed to be in the reckoning for a medal at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon. Whilst we qualified for the Longines Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, after finishing in second to last place, the future of British showjumping looked a bit bleak.

 

At the World Equestrian Games, the best British result came from new kid on the block, Amanda Derbyshire who was the only rider to qualify for the individual final. Is it significant that Amanda is based in the US, competing weekly against the US team members who claimed team gold? Adding to the fact she rides for American owners? Additionally, Amanda learned her trade from Nick Skelton and Laura Kraut, with whom she was based as a stable jockey at the beginning of her career. Interestingly her horse, Luibanta BH was sourced and produced by Britain’s Ellen Whitaker. In fact, seven horses competing in the final 25 for the individual medals in Tryon were either bred or produced in the UK.

 

The fact of the matter is that Performance Manager Di Lampard has struggled to pull together a team this year. She has had to be brave and select young partnerships but deserves credit for this move, especially her selection of a predominantly female team. It begs the question, where are Ben Maher and Scott Brash when we needed them? Is their absence due to lack of horsepower or lack of inclination, when the prize money offered by Rolex and the Global Champions Tour is far greater than that offered in Tryon.

 

Di is the first to remark that the problem is not for want of good riders but rather a lack of strong horse and rider combinations. Anyone who follows British showjumping will be aware that we are breeding some extremely successful horses. Yet the figure above, suggests that we are not keeping hold of these horses.

 

Other opinions in the sport, suggest it is the British system that is letting the sport down. That the class structure is a hindrance rather than a help in producing and sourcing young talent.

 

I will leave you with the view of Nick Skelton on where we are going wrong at the moment:

 

“Like the Europeans, we should be focusing on having age classes for horses in order to source and produce the best young horses in the country before they get sold out of the country. And unlike abroad, there are no incentives offered by the Federation for a rider to keep a good young horse. So when the riders get a good offer, they take the money and it’s foreign riders at the Championships on horses we bred and produced”.

 

At Horse Scout, we love knowing what you think about the industry. So our new series of opinion blogs are aimed at being interactive and spark debate. So we want to know your thoughts on the state of British Showjumping. If you were Chief Executive of British Showjumping or Performance Manager of the British Team, what would you do? 

We look forward to hearing your opinions.

 

Imagery by © BEF / Jon Stroud Media

 

 

8 puissance

A History of the Puissance

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AGAINST THE WALL

A History of the Puissance

By Ellie Kelly, Horse Scout Team Press.

It is a leap of faith that requires the most extraordinary levels of trust between horse and human. If you have ever ridden down to a big fence you know that feeling- a mixture of excitement and adrenalin coupled with fear and trepidation. So jumping a 2.13m (7ft) wall whilst a crowd of thousands sit motionless, takes a certain kind of mind set, that of Horse Scout professionals!

The Puissance is one of the most famous and perhaps for spectators, the most exhilarating show jumping competitions in the world. It is always one of the first performances to sell out at the London International Horse Show where it traditionally takes place on Thursday evening. Olympia’s Puissance is one of the most famous and respected competitions worldwide and for this reason has attracted sponsorship from Porsche so it is now known at the Cayenne Puissance.

Essentially a high jump competition, the word “Puissance” was derived from the Anglo-French word meaning “power” which also reflects the requirements of a good Puissance horse, together with a large dose of pluck and trust in their rider.

Today’s Puissance competition is essentially the development of a horse high jump competition which began over one hundred years ago. Historical sources suggest that the event was contested once at the Olympic Games in 1900. Whilst the original version involved jumping a single, slightly sloping fence made from a hedge topped with timber rails, today the formula consists of “the wall” built of hollow red bricks made from wood. This is for safety reasons so that they tumble easily when the jump is knocked.

The World Record was set in 1991 when German Rider, Frank Sloothaak aboard Optiebeurs Golo, jumped 2.38m (7ft10 ins). Until that it was Nick Skelton who held the record which he achieved in 1978 when he and “Lastic” jumped 2.31m (7ft 7 ins) at Olympia. Nick still holds the Olympia Puissance record to this day. However records suggest that the record for the equestrian high jump stands at 2.46m (8ft 1ins) was achieved by Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales in Chili, in 1949.

At The London International Horse Show,  the class involves a maximum of five rounds- the first round followed by four jump-offs. Accuracy, power and nerves of steel are key and there is certainly no room for even minute error for horse or rider, when jumping such colossal fences. There is always at least one other fence placed in the arena so riders jump a “warm-up” fence before coming to the great wall. The starting heights can vary and for the subsequent jump-offs, the jumps are raised for each round. The winner is of course the horse and rider who jumps that famous brick wall at the greatest height. In the event of equality after the fifth round, riders share first prize and sometimes riders choose to bow out gracefully whilst they are equal first and share top spot with their rivals. First prize is worth £20,000 so it is taken very seriously.

Show jumping’s most famous family- The Whitaker’s, have been particularly successful in this competition. John Whitaker holds the record for winning the most amount of Puissance’s at Olympia whilst his son Robert is a Puissance genius and holds the record for jumping the class bareback (without a saddle). Robert’s cousin Ellen Whitaker has been one of the most successful female Puissance competitors and her brother William holds the record for being the youngest winner of the Olympia Puissance.

Robert Whitaker has won over 20 Puissance competitions and 13 consecutively on the impressive chestnut Finbarr jumping over 2.26m (7ft 5)ins  on one occasion in Dublin. “To win any class at Olympia is fantastic but I think the Puissance is even more special.” Says Robert. “It’s a class the crowds love, Finbarr was particularly popular because he’s this big horse with an even bigger jump. Although he certainly had his own style and technique jumping that wall.”

Robert and his horse Waterstone hold the record for bare back puissance clearing just under 2.1m (7ft). “It was one of those occasions where everything just went to plan on the night as Waterstone had never jumped a puissance before or even practised at home” says Robert.

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