Tag Archives: global champions tour

Ben Maher & Triple X III

BEN MAHER

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The Horse Scout team catches up with Ben Maher at the Longines Global Champions Playoffs in Prague this weekend. 

 

Ben Maher has had a cracking season in the Longines Global Champions Series. After winning three Grand Prix, he was crowned as the overall winner of the LGCT after winning Rome in September. His horse, Explosion W is just nine years old. The seemingly unstoppable pair went on to Doha, the final leg of the Series to win both the Grand Prix and captain his team- the London Knights to another victory in the Longines Global Champions League.

 

The Global Champions League has really taken off. As team Manager of the London Knight’s, what has been the strategy behind your success for most of the season?

A lot of thought and planning goes into it. We will have a meeting in January to find out what horses everyone has available and work out where to aim those horses and what everyone’s commitments are. So it’s a 90% plan for the first half of the season. There’s a text group and most of the time it stays serious but the guys sometimes fool around a bit. We have a very strong team spirit.

This year I’ve been lucky, there has been a very strong team bond and they have all taken it very seriously and that’s why we’ve managed to be so successful.

 

What is the significance of the Global Champions Series to the sport and how has it changed it? 

It has been great for the sport. We ride every weekend for 100,000 euros to the winner. It was only five years ago that we were riding for 20,000 and thought that was a big weekend. It’s pushed the level of prize money monumentally. I never thought I would see prize money come to our sport this fast.

 

With that, the horse values have increased. It’s brought more sponsors in and hopefully, there will be TV right from big broadcasters. Maybe, in the end, we can get it back on mainstream TV because it is a great sport. There are lots of kids who have ponies or dream of having ponies. They have a connection with what we do. Like people who play tennis at the weekend, love watching Andy Murray. I Hope that within my career it can come back to what it was because I really believe it’s a great sport to watch.

 

The GCT and the GCL are continually trying to improve and grow the sport. It’s brought some colour to the sport. We’ve been very lucky to ride in these unique venues and now fans can actually follow a team and we have team colours to make it stand out. Slowly it’s building momentum and I really think that in ten years time, it will be huge.

 

Does the attractive prize fund detract you from competing at other significant competitions and making team appearance?

Obviously, the prize money is increasingly growing in the GCT but it’s not growing comparatively at other competitions. I’m still committed to my country and supportive of the Nations Cup Series and the Championships. My decision not to be available for Championships was based on the fact I have a younger team of horses and Championships are a lot harder on a horse than one Grand Prix on a Global Champions Tour so it was in the best interests for my horses’ welfare.

 

We still have not qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, so you think there is a chance we may not get there? 

We have two chances next year at Rotterdam in the European Championships and then Barcelona for the Nations Cup Final and I will do my best to make that happen.

 

I will never forget riding for my life in Aachen to qualify for the Rio Olympics. It was harder getting to Rio than it was in Rio and I never want to get to that point again. It’s a sport where we are always moving, some people who may not have helped to qualify still make it on to an Olympic team because they have the right horse at the right time and you have to have that in consideration. I also have owners that own my horses and it’s not always my decision.

 

How do you think it will grow the sport?

The GCT and GCL, runs at a slightly higher pace so that keeps the interest. Rather than 40 horses with riders all dressed the same, I agree it can be like watching paint dry- like Formula 1. Where the sport is interesting is looking at the tactics, the training and what goes on behind the scenes before those 60 seconds we spend in the ring. I think this is how we can really draw the audience into what we do and then they can bond with the horses as we do ourselves.

 

It looks like an incredible life from the outside but what is the reality?

I’m incredibly lucky to do the sport that I love and enjoy. But I’ve been on the road 50 weeks this year. I barely know what home is. I’ve also had the best season of my career and I wouldn’t change it for the world. We lose more often than we win and I just try to enjoy it as much as I can.

 

Whilst you are now winning big, the overheads must be enormous? 

The expenses are huge. It’s travel for both horse and rider and we are living in hotels most of the time. There are 40 horses within our team with 20 members of staff, planes, trucks. The reality is that the prize money a horse can win now and the value of the horses, it’s now in keeping with what it costs to run a horse.

 

With these horses, there is no expense spared. They are treated like high-level athletes. They are better looked after than I am. They live in the Four Seasons hotel lifestyle every single day. They have physios, specialist care and in many cases have one groom per horse. They are the athlete and that is how we take care of them. Thankfully the sport has now developed enough to help make it financially viable for investors and owners to be part of the sport

 

Highlight of your career

Competing at the Olympic Games in London where we won team gold. It’s a moment that won’t be repeated in my lifetime at a home game. I would like to go to another Olympics and the dream is to win both a team and an individual gold medal. A double gold would be the ultimate!

 

Do you think we could win a medal at the next Olympics? 

I think anything is possible. This year I didn’t think it would be possible to win the Global Champions Tour Final on two young horses.

 

What do you think of the state of British showjumping at the moment? 

We have a lot of good young riders in the UK but I don’t think it’s a sport where riding is just enough anymore. I think you have to be a very rounded person and you have to be able to communicate with sponsors, owners. I think it’s looking bright, I believe We are just a few years off being very strong. Myself and Scott have had a very good year and I hope we can be a part of that and lead the way for young riders like Emily Moffit, Jack Whitaker, and Harry Charles but we don’t have a lot of time before the next Olympics so we need to accelerate and get things moving quickly.

 

https://www.gcglobalchampions.com

 

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

 

 

Photo from hopedeamer1-14

NIGEL COUPE- The win that made me

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Until last year Nigel Coupe was a name that had not been heard on the international showjumping scene for some time. It was at Hickstead that together with Golvers Hill, a horse bought for showing, Nigel reminded the world of his talents, by winning The Al Shira’aa Derby at Hickstead, one of the most iconic showjumping events. Since then he won Cock of the North and the Horse of the Year Show Grand Prix plus the Leading Rider award. “I’ve had a good spell since the Derby” he says humbly.

 

“Winning the Derby was amazing. I’ve grown up watching it, so to win it was a bit of a dream. It all seems a long time ago now but coming here as defending champion and seeing myself in the Hickstead magazine from last year, brings it all back” he says on the eve of this year’s Hickstead Derby.

 

Nigel is now 47 years old but first entered The Derby 28 years ago. Although he competed at Hickstead as a boy on 12.2hhs, so the historic venue is a special place for him. He took a 10 year break from riding in The Derby until 2015, when he finally had a horse suitable. The Irish bred Golvers Hill (aka Ricky) who Nigel half owns, was bought by his other owner as a four year old and started life as a Working Hunters. “We got to the stage that he couldn’t do both and I always rated the horse as a jumper so we decided to concentrate on the jumping. He’s my best horse now” Nigel says of the 15 year old. Ricky who is by Ricardo Z out of a Clover Hill mare, has been consistent on all his three Derby attempts. Finishing second on his first attempt in 2015 and fifth in 2016 before the big win.

 

So what makes a perfect Derby horse? “They need to be brave and careful. Definitely not spooky and not afraid to take something on. Irish horses are notoriously good at the Derby and I think they often last a bit longer than some of the others” he believes. “In the old days people jumped their best horses in The Derby, now they go for the bigger prize money in the Global Champions Tour. Then again some horses would not suit the small GCT arenas, like at Monte Carlo which is on the same weekend, just as Hickstead suits certain horses more than others.”

 

With an experienced horse like Ricky, Nigel would not do much specific training for The Derby. “I practice more when they are younger and definitely when they do their first Derby. With a more experienced horse, they know what to expect so you don’t need to train so hard. But I do jump through a Dyke a few times and practice some ditches.”

 

Nigel runs a 50 box commercial yard in Prescott, Lancashire. Like most professionals, he has to make a living from training and livery as well as producing and selling horses. “Unfortunately I don’t have 5 Grand Prix horses to win big prize money on and decent horses fetch good money, so it’s a balancing act.”

 

Last year’s Derby success has been life-changing for Nigel, who has been knocking on the door of international stardom for many years. He has made several appearances on Nations Cup Teams and was a mainstay on the British youth teams winning several medals at Junior and Young Rider level.

“Winning the Derby did open up new opportunities and I have had new owners come on board and sponsors approach me. It increases your profile and has definitely brought me more of a following on social media.”

 

And the dream… “I try not to have dreams but in the long-term I want to build up a better string of horses and keep enjoying it. In the short term? I want to win The Derby again tomorrow” he smiles.

Written by Ellie Kelly