Lack of British horse power was highlighted during Rio 2016 and looking ahead to Tokyo Team GBR need to take a serious look at how Britain can invest and retain the strength and depth in British horses.

photo credit Jon Stroud

Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro (photo credit Jon Stroud)

Nick Skelton (GBR) & Bug Star - Jumping – Individual Round A – Rio 2016 Olympic Games – Deodoro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 19 August 2016

Nick Skelton (GBR) & Big Star (photo credit Jon Stroud)

Britain owes a dept of thanks to owners such as Big Star’s – Gary and Beverley Widdowson who have contributed not only a vast financial commitment but have also shown patience and resilience over a number of years.

The two equestrian stars of Rio – Valegro and Big Star will not be around to contest their Rio Golds so how does Team GBR planned to replace them?

As a Brit I was thrilled at Nick and Big Star’s win and congratulate not only Nick but the owners and the support team that helped them through extreme hardship to achieve the ultimate goal – Gold Medal at Rio 2016.

Olympic showjumping courses are renowned for being particularly gruelling and Nick was the first to comment on how difficult it was to have an Olympic jump off with six riders – 4th, 5th and 6th to jump three big rounds and not get anything at the end is tough.

jeroen Dubbeldam ZenithBut I feel great sadness for Jeroen Dubbeldam and the incredible partnership he formed with SNF Zenith, he has managed this partnership so meticulously and achieved so much – but it was possibly their last championship together. Zenith is one of 6 horses owned by the Showjumping Fund of the Netherlands and will go to auction next month.

Can we learn from the Dutch who were in a similar position to us a decade ago?

Dutch equestrian journalist Jacob Melissen created the Showjumping Fund of the Netherlands (SNF) in 2006 with the purpose of keeping talented home bred horses and making them available to Dutch riders.

Jeroen Dubbledam and SNF Zenith are an example of the program’s success. Jeroen and Zenith have been partnered for 5 years and in that time have achieved;
2014 FEI WEG Team and Individual Gold
2014 Nations Cup final Team Gold
2015 FEI Europeans Team and Individual Gold

The SNF Board was set up for a period of 10 years with a new one being created in 2017, and part of the plan was to achieve a good financial return for investors.

As a 10 year plan the SNF has proved successful but sadly for Jeroen the future of SNF Zenith will be sealed at the BVA auction in Amersfoort on 21st September.

I hope not just for Jeroen but also for Zenith that a Dutch buyer rises to the occasion and keeps the partnership together. Because often its the partnership between horse and rider that works and is successful – another rider may not get the same tune out the horse.