Saturday, 19 March 2011

World Clique

Blenheim would be a poorer event without foreign competition
Some months back I wrote about the unofficial cultural exchange programme we have in eventing and how wonderful it was to see so many people flourishing in pastures new. I do constantly thank my lucky stars that the UK has the best eventing circuit in the world, and a large part of it's success is the diverse nationalities we have camped in our back yards.

I'm not talking about the superficial marketing spin we're fed of how great it is to compete against the William Fox-Pitts & Andrew Hoys of this world, because after a few times it's just a nuisance knowing that as an amateur you haven't hope in hell of beating him in a pre-novice or novice that's pretty inconsequential to the professionals, but I'm not going to complain about that.

Let me explain the reason for raising this subject again before discussing it once more. Tina Cook has a habit of bugging me with her current "patriotic" grumblings about foreigners in our midst. In this week's Horse and Hound she has once again decided to take a swipe at the foreign riders, suggesting we should limit the number of entries from foreign riders in UK events. Her reason: because some of the French events do. How balanced and well thought out!

Just like racing here in the UK, eventing fares well from a diverse range of courses. However like most things in sport there are a number of other mitigating variables to consider in understanding success. A large slice of this revolves around the UK residence of a large cross section of the global eventing community, and UK eventing is richer for it.

Without foreign competition Pippa would win almost everything
Whilst there are a few downsides to having our cousins from overseas here, like increased competition for horses and owners, there are numerous benefits. The late great Frank Weldon used to say "it's not what you win, it's who you beat". Very true too! If Tina Cook had her way we wouldn't have the likes of Mark Todd or Andrew Nicholson here at all, and in fact they probably would be as good as they are if they weren't here. The British Team would be but a shadow of it's current strength if it weren't for the international competition we see on a day-to-day basis domestically. Just take a look back to the 70s & early 80s and compare to the last 20 years, where transportation and open international trading have made it easier to compete, we've actually thrived on it.

William would win everything else | Someone call 911
The UK eventing circuit only works so well and is so vibrant because of the large international community based here. If we discouraged them from being here in the sort of ways Tina is suggesting we would find our selves in the same boat that overseas circuits are. Like Australia, Germany or France who face a constant battle to fund some of their larger events (e.g. Adelaide or Schenefeld).

I also see no logic in allowing the BEF or BE to say who can and can't go and compete abroad, as no doubt they'll have team prospects as their priority, and that is misguided protectionism.

Competition can only ever be a good thing, protectionism eventually erodes the very thing it sets out to defend. Eventing as a sport would be a much poorer spectacle were it not for the likes of the UK based Kiwis, Aussies, French, Germans, Italians, Swedish, even Chinese, (OK, he's actually English not Chinese, but you get my point). Could you imagine Badminton with only a handful of non-Brits? Sounds like a Gymkhana to me!

Tina! Man up & Get Involved!

and before anyone rushes to support Tina's view think about all the foreign riders who we wouldn't see based in the UK, and the effect this would have on both the sport and the industry.

My other post: The Unofficial Cultural Exchange Programme


  1. I agree with you 100%. I'm not from or in the UK; I'm American and this article speaks to me. I can't imagine US events trying to restrict foreign riders. In fact, we are always proud of being able to host foreign riders at our competitions. We are flattered that they want to be here. If you don't win, it's because you didn't ride as well, not because of some foreign conspiracy. Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. I'm not sure that's what Tina was saying. The way I read it, she's not saying the foreigners shouldn't be here at all - indeed, she said that their presence made for healthy competition - just that when events are oversubscribed, Brits should have priority?

    And if there's no logic in allowing the BEF or BE to decide who gets the spaces at foreign events, who should decide?! Because there are a limited number of spaces sometimes so someone's got to...

  3. a) I don't see why Brits should have priority in over subscribed events (that's bias based on nationality, so particularly a problem when many non Brits have legitimate UK residency). Any such bias is counter productive.

    b) there needs to a fair system for selection for overseas events. Either a points system (like they use at Badminton), or the usual Ballot system.

  4. Completely unrelated but it's great to find a horsey blog at last - it seems like there's rather a gap in the blog world where horses and riding are concerned!