Money or country? Dutch show jumping coach expresses concerns

Ehrens leading the Dutch Nations Cup squad in La Baule, France in 2018
Credit : Scoopdyga

Wednesday 13 March - 16h53 | Amelie Ulmer and Lucas Tracol

Money or country? Dutch show jumping coach expresses concerns

With no less than 10 riders from the Netherlands on CSI5* Global Champions League teams this season, Dutch national show jumping coach Rob Ehrens has expressed fears that he will not be able to count on elite riders to compete in the country's colours in the future. Indeed, with the 2019 European Championships in Rotterdam on the horizon as well as the start of the Nations Cup circuit, Ehrens has raised concerns about the fate of his Oranje team.

 - Money or country? Dutch show jumping coach expresses concerns

Leopold Van Asten on VDL Groep Beauty in 2018
Credit : Scoopdyga

Ten Dutch drivers will take part in the 2019 Global Champions League (GCL), the lucrative series running in parallel with the Longines Global Champions Tour in which international riders compete on teams of six. This situation has made their national coach Rob Ehrens concerned that the powerhouse jumping country will not be able to count on them to defend the Dutch red, white and blue flag. In an interview given to Horses.nl, Ehrens stated that while it was possible to take part in the GCL and be selected for the national team, conflicts could arise: "[Participation in Nations Cups] depends largely on the will of the riders and their owners. It represents their commitment to the country. If they do not show up, the Dutch team could be in trouble.... However, we can not force anyone to play the game."

The veteran team leader also regrets that the growth in the number of international competitions can be detrimental to horses: "The question is whether we can still work out a schedule to include both the Nations Cup circuit despite the proliferation of Global Champions Tour [and Global Champions League – ed.] stages. [For instance], the preparation period for the European Championships has become dependant on managing the schedules of the riders and their horses.... The first victim of this increasingly busy calendar might be the horses. However, if riders and owners are vigilant and do not just chase after money, we can still succeed. There is still work going on." This season, the Oranje will certainly be eager to perform well in front of their home public during the European Championships, from August 19–25. But at least they no longer have the pressure of securing an Olympic qualification for Tokyo 2020, which they achieved last summer by finishing fifth at the Tryon World Equestrian Games in North Carolina. Continued below.

Dutch riders' thoughts

Dutch riders' thoughts - Money or country? Dutch show jumping coach expresses concerns

Wout-Jan VAN DER SCHANS and Zorro in 2016.
Credit : Scoopdyga

While the Netherlands’ coach expressed his worries about the omnipresence of his riders in the GCL, two of those riders also voiced their opinions on the issue. Speaking as well to Horses.nl, Leopold van Asten insisted that it was possible to plan his season smartly, especially with the presence of six riders rather than [the previous] five on each GCL team. "It allows us to organize the season and to be able to combine the private circuit with the national series.... As an athlete, I am proud to represent my country."

With competitions in the Longines Nations Cup circuit [Western European League] and the Longines Global Champions Tour and its League overlapping, some riders are having to choose between the call from the national coach and that of their team on the private circuit. And Leopold van Asten said that the expanded GCL, with its inaugural Prague plays-off last year, has attracted bigger crowds and more riders. Wout-Jan van der Schans, who also commented on the issue, was more direct than his teammate and explained his interest in private circuits. "If you have a horse that does well at the high level, I can understand that the first choice will be the Global," he said, recalling that the LGCT and GCL events were much more rewarding monetarily than Nations Cups, whose prize money also depends on the performance of teammates. Moreover, Wout-Jan van der Schans considers that CSIOs are more challenging for horses, which have to take part in both the Nations Cup and the Grand Prix: "In total, the horses have to compete on four challenging courses. I have always liked the Nations Cups, but I wonder if countries will now have their best team [for them]. It will depend on the riders' priorities, and if they can count on two horses."

In the Netherlands, then, there seems to be some tension as to which of the 10 riders from the country will agree to sacrifice certain stages of the LGCT and the GCL for the benefit of the national team. By comparison, in France, only two riders of the French Equestrian Federation’s top group are on a team in the GCL: Simon Delestre, competing with three horses including Hermès Ryan Hayettes, and Olivier Robert with two horses. But the Dutch concern represents a wider problem affecting several national teams, which are sometimes deserted by their leading riders.

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