Tag Archives: Tokyo olympics

Photo credit: FEI /Massimo Argenziano

Flying Scotsman Scott Brash wins World Cup in Verona

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Scott Brash restored British showjumping hopes after winning the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup in Verona. Riding Lady Kirkham’s Hello M’lady, the Scotsman jumped the fastest clear round in the jump off to claim the title, in a strong field including World Number one Steve Guerdat.

 

“This means a lot and I am delighted with my horse” said Brash who heralds from Peebles in Scotland. “M’lady is a fantastic horse but a delicate mare. She can get a little stressed with the atmosphere so it took me a bit of time at the show just to get her to relax but her talent showed through today. She also jumped at the European Championships to help qualify Great Britain for the Olympics “.

 

Brash was on the team which won gold in the London 2012 but Britain’s success at team championship level has since been erratic. The 34 year old has also occupied the limelight less frequently of late, for a man who has been top of the world rankings more than once and was the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam, showjumping’s most lucrative prize in 2015. In a sport where you are only as good as the horse you are sat on, Brash has lacked the horsepower after many of his top horses have been retired or off with injury. Despite a prolific career, he is not yet qualified for Tokyo

 

Olympic ambitions are what motivates Brash. He has aimed for the World Cup Series to increase his chances of Olympic selection and with it, another gold medal. Whilst Britain has qualified for Tokyo, he needs to gain enough FEI points in order to be considered for a team or individual place. “The Olympics is on my mind. M’Lady is going to be one of my strongest contenders for next year. She has been off for quite a while through injury sustained a few years back but it is nice to feel her competitive at the top of the sport again. I have high hopes for next year”.

 

Photo credit: FEI /Massimo Argenziano

Dublin Horse Show 2019

FROM ZERO TO HERO: BRITISH SHOWJUMPING SCORE TRIUMPHANT WIN IN DUBLIN NATIONS CUP

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Ellie Kelly reporting from the Royal Dublin Show

 

Last week we published a story about the future of British showjumping. This week we want to retract it. The Brits are back on top after decisive win at Dublin on Friday following on from Ben Maher claiming his fifth London Global Champions title.

 

When the going gets tough, the British get going. It was the final leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup at the Royal Dublin Show. Team GB were at the bottom of the Western European table after a disappointing season and the chance of qualifying for the Final seemed long gone. Our British riders showed enormous courage, stoicism. Di Lampard’s team of Ben Maher, Scott Brash, Holly Smith and Emily Moffitt, jumped phenomenally to finish the two round competition on just one time penalty. Some 11 points ahead of Italy in second with Ireland in third on 16 points.

 

The Nations Cup victory propelled the British team from the bottom of their division to seventh place – a result which has booked them a ticket to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. The significance of this is that it offers another chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in addition to the European Championships in Rotterdam, later this month.

 

This has been a challenging period for British showjumping who despite winning team gold in London 2012 and individual gold in Rio 2016 are still not qualified for Tokyo 2020. They are also reliant on good results to retain their significant Lottery Funding. For the majority of the Nations Cup season Britain have existed at the bottom of the table for the Western European League. The pressure was immense in Dublin, yet they put in a stellar performance and pulled off victory without needing Holly Smith to compete in the second round.

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It must have come as a huge relief to Performance Manager Di Lampard who has been challenged by a lack of choice available to the British team in terms of strong horse-rider combinations, for a number of seasons. She was full of praise for the number of loyal British owners who have put their faith in the British system and made their horses available for these championships.

 

“We’ve ridden the storm this season, we’ve had the downs and the difficulties, but it had to change, some time and with a good team and the right spirit I felt it was going to come right this week”said Di after collecting the coveted Aga Khan Trophy, at a prize-giving ceremony attended by The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. This was the 27th British win of the prestigious Aga Khan Trophy in the 93 year history of the event.

 

Di herself has been a winning rider of this trophy, during her career as a leading showjumper. “I remember 1996, winning the Aga Khan Cup with Abbervail Dream, the sportsmanship of the crowd was incredible as we went toe to toe with the Irish” she reflected.

Dublin Horse Show 2019

“With the win we secure a place in the Barcelona final and we were determined to carry that out – the Aga Khan trophy was always coming home with us!” As she pointed out, there’s been something of a generational shift going on in British showjumping.

 

“Over the last three years we’ve been producing young riders and a larger squad of riders, and you can’t rush these things. They need the right horses and they need owners to stick with them and that all takes time”she explained. The changing of the guard can indeed be a painful process, but today’s result showed that British showjumping is definitely on an upward curve once again.

 

Rider injury has also plagued the British camp and three of the team members have suffered heavy falls in recent week. This was Holly Smith’s first competition back since breaking her shoulder five weeks ago. Amanda Derbyshire, who has had a successful show at Dublin but was not competing in the Nations Cup. Her other top horse Roulette, was sidelined after a crashing fall of horse and rider at the Hickstead Nations Cup last month which left Amanda in hospital with facial injuries and her horse at Newmarket Equine Hospital where he is recovering well.

 

With this pivotal victory achieved in fine style, Di Lampard is focused on the Longines FEI European Championships later in the month where Maher, Brash and Smith will be joined by Amanda Derbyshire and Laura Renwick on the British Team. “Now we are really confident about going to Rotterdam and winning a medal and our place in Tokyo” she said.

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British Showjumping pin all their Olympic hopes on Rotterdam

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Should we be worried about the state of British Showjumping?

 

After winning team gold in London 2012 and individual gold in Rio 2016, it seems hard to believe that Team GB have not even qualified for Tokyo 2020. After a disappointing Nations Cup Series where Britain are at the bottom of their division which will mean they cannot qualify for the Nations Cup Final. Our final chance for Olympic qualification comes with the FEI Longines European Championships in Rotterdam, Holland, which take place from 19–25 August 2019.

 

Yet all is not lost, the Brits are famous for pulling it out the bag when it really matters. They have been here before and it was a similar “last chance saloon” story before Rio. Furthermore with two Olympic gold medallists, currently Britain’s highest FEI-ranked showjumpers on the list in Ben Maher and Scott Brash, supported by three talented girls, their chances are strong.

 

The selected squad has been named by British Showjumping selectors as:

  • Scott Brash MBE (33 years) from Peeblesshire and based in West Sussex with Lady Pauline Kirkham & Lady Pauline Harris’ Hello M’Lady (bay, mare, 13yo, Indoctro x Baloubet du Rouet).
  •  Amanda Derbyshire (30 years) from Leyland in Lancashire and based in the USA with Gochman Sport Horse LLC’s Luibanta BH (bay, mare, 11yo, Luidam x Abantos).
  • Ben Maher MBE (36 years) from Bishops Stortford in Hertfordshire with Poden Farms’ Explosion W (chestnut, gelding, 10yo, Chacco Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet).
  • Laura Renwick (44 years) from Maldon in Essex with Arabella Prior’s Dublin V (chestnut, gelding, 11yo, Vigaro x Calvados).
  • Holly Smith (30 years) from Wymeswold in Leicestershire with TJ Hall Ltd’s and her own Hearts Destiny (British Bred) (bay, gelding, 10yo, Heart Throb x Rabino).

 

Performance Manager Di Lampard said “The European Championships this year are absolutely crucial if we are to qualify for the Olympic Games at Tokyo next year. I have full faith that the selection panel have put together a very strong team who could not only secure a qualifying ticket for Tokyo but also medal in both the Team and Individual Finals. I would like to personally thank all the owners that have made their horses available and of course the riders who are as committed as I am to delivering for Great Britain. In addition I extend my thanks to the dedicated support team at the BEF and British Showjumping who also play a vital role”

 

British Showjumping Chief Executive Iain Graham commented “We go forward to Rotterdam with a strong team in whom I have full confidence. In Ben and Scott we have two London 2012 Team Gold medallists who have also held the top spot individually on the world ranking lists. Both Holly and Amanda have proven themselves as Championship Team riders and Laura Renwick has been having consistent success at top level. I would like to congratulate the entire team on their selection and also thank the owners who have generously made their horses available for the British campaign as we set our sights on Tokyo.”

 

According to Scott Brash, he has been saving his horse for this opportunity. “My plans for Hello M’Lady this year have been entirely based around preparing her for the Europeans, so that I knew she would be ready for these all-important championships from where we need to qualify for Tokyo 2020. I was delighted to receive the call-up for the team and would like to take this opportunity to thank my owners Lord and Lady Kirkham and Lord and Lady Harris for their ongoing support.”

 

Amanda Derbyshire who suffered a dramatic fall in the FEI Nations Cup at Hickstead is excited to be a mainstay of the team. She was best of the Brits at the World Equestrian Games in Tyron last year on Luibanta. “I couldn’t be any happier to be selected for what will be my second Championships. Obviously I wish I hadn’t had a fall recently but I feel confident that I and Luibanta will be going to the Championships in fighting form.”

 

Ben Maher will be bringing his Global Champions Tour Champion Explosion W. “Representing Great Britain at championship level is always an honour and I would like to thank the Moffitt family and Poden Farms for making their outstanding horse, Explosion W, available for Rotterdam. This is a crucial championships for us in terms of qualifying for Tokyo and I am delighted to be part of the team that has been entrusted to deliver that all-important Olympic ticket.”

 

The ever green Laura Renwick has made a number of Nations Cup appearances but this will be her first championship for Team GB. “I’m really excited and proud to have been selected to represent my country at not only my first European Championships but also one that is extremely important to Great Britain in terms of Olympic qualification. I would like to thank my owner Arabella Prior and her family who own Dublin V and of course my husband John for his ongoing support and belief in me.”

 

Holly Smith is another consistent performer with ice cool nerves and a seriously talented partner in Hearts Destiny. “I’m delighted and honoured to be representing Great Britain again on a Championship team. We have a serious task ahead of us in Rotterdam in respect of qualifying for Tokyo and I’m absolutely focused on giving it my best shot at making sure we do just that.”

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

 

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BEHIND THE SCENES: GRIT, GLAMOUR AND GREAT SPORT AT THE LONGINES FEI NATIONS CUP FINAL BARCELONA 2018

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I was lucky enough to be reporting at the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final In Barcelona last week. Not only was there great sporting action, a masterful display of horsemanship and a tantalising finish. Beyond this, there were some high profile individuals and interesting back-stories that really highlighted what a special sport this is.

 

Having breakfast in the hotel one morning I was sat next to Jessica Springsteen. The drop-dead gorgeous daughter of Bruce was looking very much in love with boyfriend, Italian heartthrob Lorenzo de Luca, as she ate her boiled egg.  Lorenzo was later caught buying his girl a present in the shopping village.

 

Across the room was World No 1, Harrie with the rest of the Dutch team and World No 2 Mclain Ward, fresh from winning team gold at WEG. Mclain was over to train 19-year-old showjumping sensation; Lucy Deslauriers who was making her first big team appearance for the USA. Extraordinarily Lucy’s father Mario was also competing but for his homeland of Canada. Now 53 years of age, Mario was the youngest ever winner of a World Cup Final at the age of 19 and he and his daughter could make headlines if they both achieve their dreams of being selected for the Tokyo Olympics, for their respective Nations.

 

Also competing at the show were the UAE team who are rising stars. After a fascinating interview, I discovered every one of them has a full-time job and compete just a handful of horses alongside this. Jobs included a policeman, an office administrator and a camel trainer.  “Football is the only professional sport but we are trying to change that” I was told.

 

“Never give up” was the take away message from this year’s prestigious competition. Held in the popular Real Club de Polo in Barcelona for the sixth year in a row, it was the Belgians who won the oldest jumping competition in the world and lifted the Nations Cup trophy. But it was by no means decisive and Peter Weinberg, Chef d’Equipe of the team summed up the result and in that, the very nature of equestrian sport. “We call ourselves the “Never Give Up Team” because in the middle we had two with 12 faults already but still we were fighting to the last rider, so this victory means a lot to us!”

 

With one of the most challenging tracks this final has seen, of the eight nations who went through to the final, just three riders jumped clear. It is hardly surprising that Course Designer Santiago Varela has been selected as course designer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The track was imposing and technical and questioned control, balance, judgement and skill, all the way around. As Varela pointed out it wasn’t about the number of faults the riders collected. “A score of 8 or 12 didn’t mean they had a bad round, horses jumped unbelievably, but the course was difficult, tough and big…and everything was connected”, he explained.

 

As was the case with most of the teams, the Belgians had mixed fortunes, Niels Bruynseels gave the team confidence with a superb clear from Gancia de Muze but both Pieter Devos (Claire Z) and Jos Verlooy (Caracas) each leaving three fences on the floor. However, it was the dashing Nicola Philippaerts, who saved the day with a sublime clear round on H&M Harley v. Bisschop and that sealed the deal.

 

Nicola said his teammates told him “everything is still possible” when he was last to go. “I just tried to ride my own class and it worked out well – today it was me that could make the clear round that would make a difference, and another time it will be one of the others”. And he had even more reason to be pleased when sharing the €100,000 bonus for double-clear performances with team-mate Bruynseels, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and Italy’s new star, Riccardo Pisani.

 

This was Belgium’s second win of the Longines FEI Nations Cup in Barcelona; their last came in 2015. As Chef d’Equipe Weinberg said: “it was an interesting day, first ups and then in between downs, but in the end, we won anyway so it was really great sport!”