I took over the running of the Winter Show Jumping Championships in 2000 and in the same year Blue Chip Feeds became our title sponsor and have been so for the past 16 years. I am very proud of the Championships and the “Team” of officials that make the show such a success. The aim has always been to provide the best possible stage for competition at all levels and there is a massive satisfaction on seeing people enjoy the event.
When we re-build at night at a show like Hickstead there is a big team effort to get everything right and ready for the next day’s competition. Bob and I will position the fences and measure the distances, another team follow us and level the fences and put in all the fillers etc., a third team then washes the fences and a fourth team touches up the paint; there is huge attention to detail. Yet another team puts holes in the ground for all the Christmas trees and flags, it is a huge logistical operations. At HOYS over 50 people are responsible for creating the course, this is made up of about 38-arena party, Bob and myself, 4 corner course builders and 8 assistants. Finally, there is a team of about 10 people to decorate the course. The builds at HOYS are very quick, with about 10 -15 minutes from start to finish.
How has course design changed over the years?
I probably came into it as it was starting to change. I remember watching the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and being intrigued by Bert de Nemethy’s courses; but for me the biggest impact internationally was seeing the Olympics in Seoul in 1988 built by Olaf Peterson. His courses were fresh and left a big impression on me.
What are your plans for Trailblazers?
We took over running the Trailblazers Championships in December 2014 and have enjoyed the first year of getting to know the event. Trailblazers competitions run 12 months of the year with qualification for a Championship Final which this year will be 29 July – 6 August at Stoneleigh Park. There is dressage, show jumping, showing and combined training with junior and adult sections.
I went to see the Championship Finals in 2014 and it reminded me of shows I used to go to as a child. There is a lovely family feeling, lots of small horseboxes, gazebos and tents with a great social feel. A bit like Blue Chip Championships, the ethos is to give the best Championship experience we can to all those attending.
Do showjumping courses for eventing differ from pure showjumping?
If you asked me 25 years ago, I would have said yes. Now I think it is much closer, the expectation of a true jumping course is far greater. I will walk the show jumping course with the Technical Director and the XC Designer the night before the jumping phase and we discuss the course in terms of the overall three day competition. I try to account that they have done two other elements and create a fair course. I first went to Badminton in 1992 to assist Richard Jefferey with the arena decoration and have been involved ever since. The first year I went Jon Doney was the course designer, I remember that there was a gate, the judges asked for flower troughs in front of the gate because they thought the gate was too vertical. I think this demonstrates how show jumping courses have changed within eventing.