Equestrianism: Power is ready to take the big leap

Good basic training has provided a foundation that could help an Irish teenager to hit the show jumping big time.
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ROBERT POWER is not expected to leap immediately into show jumping fame and fortune when he competes on the British circuit this year. But the 17- year-old Irishman could well be starting a journey in that direction under his mentor, Peter Charles, with whom he is now based in Hampshire.

Charles is a stickler for correct basic training, which he initially learnt in Ireland from Iris Kellett and Eddie Macken. He proved its effectiveness when riding for Britain from 1985 to 1991 and, even more so, after switching to Irish nationality and winning the 1995 European title. Power is bound to get a good grounding.

The two riders met after Power won a training bursary through the annual Spillers Golden Saddle awards in Ireland. He chose to train with Charles. "I like the way he rides and people who have been to him told me that he's a very good teacher," Power said.

One of the "people" was Eric Holstein, winner of last year's British Grand Prix at Hickstead while he was based with Charles. Holstein will again be campaigning from the Hamp-shire farm, which is fast becoming the premier school for Irish show jumpers.

Power had some intensive training there when he first arrived last May. "Robert has to learn the trade," Charles said of his protege. "At this stage I'm not worried about him winning, I'd rather see him riding correctly."

The trainer does, however, believe in his pupil's potential. "He's talented and he has a good head on his shoulders, I've no doubt that he will make a successful Nations Cup rider. To go further than that, we all need some lucky breaks. I think Robert has the potential, but we'll have to see."

Con Power, Robert's father, was one of the best Irish army riders and a natural horseman, whose daring exploits against the clock could have prompted the description of "Power without responsibility". Con's inborn talents appear to have been passed on to both his offspring: Robert and his younger sister, Elizabeth, who finished fifth in last year's European Pony Three-Day Event Championships.

The training bursary was Robert Power's first essential lucky break. The second came last November when Traxdata, who have been pouring money into show jumping sponsorship this year, added the young Irishman to their team of riders. It already included Charles and three Britons: James Fisher, Tim Stockdale and Stuart Harvey.

Support from this company, which markets recording equipment for CDs, means that Power will be based with Charles for the next three years, sharing the rides on about 20 horses at the Hampshire yard. He has already ridden Charles's regular mount, Traxdata T'Aime, into second place in a big contest at Towerlands and has hopes of partnering the same horse in August's Junior European Championships.

Power's progress will be followed eagerly by the Irish show jumping fraternity, who already regard him as a future star. It might be a good idea for those who control the sport in Britain to take careful note as well.

Charles believes that British show jumping is in the doldrums partly because "a whole generation has gone missing". He is referring to a bunch of riders, now in their late 20s and who were once seen as great hopes for the future, but who have subsequently failed to make any significant progress during their many years of competing. According to Charles, they should have had the principles of correct riding drummed into them.

Power now has the chance to prove the efficacy of proper training. He firmly belives that he has already learnt an enormous amount from Charles and he has the good sense to know that success does not come easily at all. With the help of his astute trainer - coupled with a few more lucky breaks - Power's own application and natural talent should eventually take him right to the top of the ladder.