Laura's Viewpoint

By: Horse Deals

Laura's Viewpoint
Laura and Limelight de Breve en route to their Queen’s Cup triumph

Laura reflects on winning a legendary class
and asks for less fun classes and more
‘proper’ jumping

So much has happened since my last column that I don’t really know where to start. Everything began at Hickstead, where my horse of a lifetime, Limelight de Breve, won me the
Queen’s Cup.

It really still hasn’t sunk in because the Queen’s is one of those classes every lady rider dreams of winning, but you know things like that don’t happen in real life!

"Lulu" seemed to somehow know how important it was to me and that this was our day. I’ve never really thought of her a "Hickstead horse" and she didn’t jump well the day before, but the sun came out, the going dried up and she bust a gut for me.

I’ve looked at the list of former winners and it’s hard to believe that I’ve joined names such as Caroline Bradley and Liz Edgar. I know I also made history as the first woman to beat the men in the class, but I can’t help wishing it would still be for ladies only.

Our sport has such history behind it and it makes me sad that so many traditional classes are being changed. I don’t mind change, but I think we have to keep a sense of proportion and try to keep some of the tradition.

We travelled on to New Forest, where my girls — Lulu and Beluga — were again on top form, but it all came down to earth in the rain at Pembroke County.

And when I say rain, I should probably call it a monsoon. It started the night we arrived and carried on all show until they cancelled the jumping on the final day. The wind was pretty frightening. We were staying in the lorry and it was swaying, while the rain hammered on the roof. Lulu hated it and didn’t jump well, so I was really glad to get home.

Show jumping’s a great leveller. Things are going well one moment, then it’s back to earth with a bump. There’s certainly no chance of becoming big-headed in this profession!

More exciting news came when I was invited to jump in the back-up classes at the European Championships. What a chance to watch the best in the world in the championships themselves. It’s a fantastic opportunity to look and learn without the pressure of taking part.
The only drawback is that the second classes are of the "puissance and knockout" variety. In other words, they’re fun classes to entertain the members of the crowd who aren’t necessary fans of the sport.

I do appreciate that shows have to get bums on seats and the riders are just part of the entertainment, but from our point of view, these classes don’t really teach horses much or help in bringing them on to championship level.

In fact, Britain is often the only country where they even take place these days. When you travel to shows abroad, the classes are mainly of the jump-off and A4 variety, so maybe that’s where we’re going wrong.

I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I don’t like doing the puissance — in fact, I can say hand on heart that I’d prefer it if I never did one again. I suppose it depends on the horse though.

At Olympia, I asked William Whitaker if he really enjoys doing puissance and he told me he didn’t at the start, but that he now knows Leonardo so well it just seems like any other class.

William’s lucky because Leonardo isn’t just a puissance specialist, but can jump grands prix and Derbys. The only other horse I can think of recently who could manage that consistently was Lactic, but then he had the great John Whitaker on board, which must have helped. A horse who can turn its hoof to anything is a real star — and should help you pay the
bills too!

But if we want to compete successfully with the Europeans these days, perhaps the structure of the sport here needs to be examined. I love doing a proper A4 speed class and there is a place for the occasional "turn your hat round and go as fast as you can" table C, but not all
the time.

I don’t know what the answer is because we haven’t enough money in show jumping in Britain to afford not to entertain the public. All I can say is that I’m glad I stick to riding and aren’t among the people who have to make the decisions.