I’m not sure whether to be impressed or otherwise with the statistic quoted by sportscotland that 18 athletes and 21 support staff make up a strong presence of Scots on Team GB for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

With their all-important medal tally yet to be counted, time will tell whether or not the investment to help train and send them to these games will have been a sound one or otherwise. More generally, it begs the question whether or not the sportscotland vision of a Scotland where ‘sport is a way of life, where sport is at the heart of society, making a positive impact on people and communities,’ has been delivered in any measurable way.

That’s a difficult one for people more clever than me to answer, but one thing of which I am sure is the dedication and commitment which each and every one of the athletes and coaches puts into their sport – it’s something that can’t be measured by money.

Anyone involved in the world of competition at any level, be it sport or business, knows only too well that success comes at a price, the greatest elements of which are undoubtedly time and effort. Hats off to the Winter Olympians for ‘having a go’ at a level to which most mortals can only dream.

Be it politically motivated or otherwise, excellence in sport in Britain has real meaning, with the Olympic disciplines attracting considerable funding. Does is really matter whether or not a country fares well in the medal table? I doubt it, although there was a huge feel-good factor as we watched our medal status grow at the London Olympic Games and we are told that uptake in sport as a result was considerable but possibly not sustained.

The thrust of sports funding in Scotland, however, stems from Scottish Government health policy which clearly states, ‘Encouraging people to be more active could help prevent and treat more than 20 chronic diseases, increase life expectancy and reduce pressure on the NHS.’ To this end, funding to sportscotland amounted to £30,650,000 from 2017 to 2018, with a three-fold focus on coaching, sports facilities and Awards for All, ‘an easy way for smaller organisations to get small amounts of funding and run in partnership with The Big Lottery Fund.’

So, how does this impact on equestrianism in Scotland? Horsescotland is the national organisation for all equestrian sport and activity in Scotland with 17 full member bodies, six associate members and 16 club members covering the full range of competition disciplines as well as other equestrian groups.

Part of its funding (£10,000) from sportscotland, goes to the member body support programme to help fund projects designed to achieve increasing levels of participation. As part of a pathway development programme, the majority of horsescotland funding focuses on training across all disciplines, as well as rider development.

It is the latter which also remains at the heart of much of the organisation’s pyramid structure of training and individual competitor development which ranges from the base level of local participant to the very top of the pyramid, epitomised by gold medal-winning Olympian, Scott Brash.

It comes as little surprise that the major equestrian disciplines, show jumping, dressage and eventing, all have active training and support programmes in place for members, with a special focus on youngsters understandably recognised as the future of their sport.

A trip around their websites reveals a host of programmes and pathways (nb: essential terms and titles for government sport’s funding) starting at 12 years old, in the case of British Eventing, and six years old in the case of British Dressage. British Showjumping has initiated a national ‘Just for Schools’ team league for youngsters aged five to 19 and an additional national league for ‘Children on Horses’ where riders’ ages range from 12 to 14.

So, training opportunities seem boundless for all ages and stages with that essential element of voluntary effort merged with top class professional advice.

With the Olympic disciplines attracting the lion’s share of the money, there is little left for the minority equestrian sports indeed if any at all. One of several is polo, which, by any standard must be deemed a minority sport and rightly fails to merit substantial government backing.

However, it has attracted increasing interest in recent years, particularly through university clubs which are enjoying sizeable memberships. Their success is not limited to Scotland – only recently Stirling University Polo Club was crowned intermediate combined national champions for 2018 at the Schools and Universities Polo Association (SUPA) national winter championships, in Rugby. With around 600 players competing during the tournament, this was a great result for Scotland.

It leads me to the question of what is actually deemed to be a sport, for there are many more equestrian competitions out there which form the nursery for other disciplines. The Oxford, Cambridge and Collins Dictionaries all agree that sport refers to a competitive activity which involves physical effort and is done or played according to rules by an individual or by a team.

Is it then a given that gymkhanas, horse racing and shows provide sporting activities? Should they remain the Cinderellas of the performance world, or will someone at some stage sit up and take cognisance of their value despite the fact that Olympic medals will never come their way.

What more do any of these disciplines have to do to satisfy sportscotland’s vision for Scotland?

I know that within my own experience of the show world, many of Scotland’s top class riders started on ponies at local shows where they initially competed in flat classes and later moved on to working hunter ponies.

Dealing with pressure, following instructions and routines, all the while developing both character and confidence, are hallmarks of an apprenticeship for future competition in particular and life in general. In the recent past, Jemma Kirk, Joanne Barry and Mark Turnbull, emerged as top-class competitive riders by this route.

There is something about regularly competing in the ring with others from an early age, while at the same time having to complete individual performances in order to gain a rosette – this provides an experience that no trainer or course can provide.

There is no doubt in my mind that the meteoric rise to stardom of Charlotte Dujardin can be directly linked to the huge success she enjoyed as a show rider during her earliest days of competition. Her natural talent and dedication notwithstanding, trotting down the centre line in the spotlight at the Horse of the Year Show with her Pony of the Year, Ardenhall Royal Secret, surely placed her in good stead for that concluding trot up the centre line with Valegro to take gold at both the London and Rio Olympics.

Understandably, funding seems to be geared towards optimum performance at a level which is obvious to the general public which after all funds it. Hence, the focus on the Olympics and World Championships. While politicians don’t have the knowledge and experience to hold a view on the means to achieve this, their advisors certainly do.

Perhaps it is time they look outside the box part of the time and fund in some way those sectors where the competitive ability of young riders is currently being nurtured with little financial support, or subsidised training.