OPINION

For the duration of Dressage at Hickstead’s international show, most of the feedback has been wall-to-wall praise from riders and spectators alike. The dressage is top class and this year offered British fans a rare chance to see Valegro perform on home turf.

The first blog I wrote from here prompted a huge reaction. Many pointed out that to compare Hickstead to Aachen is unfair. Aachen receives huge funding and Hickstead none. Hickstead is run by an army of loyal volunteers who work tirelessly for long hours across many days to make the whole thing come together on a temporary site and on a shoestring. I do not wish to take anything away from the work and effort they put in to make this Britain’s most popular dressage show.

Aachen hasn’t ruined Hickstead for anyone; it’s just a different beast. To draw attention to niggles without highlighting the myriad positives of this much-loved show was insensitive. I’m sorry for the upset caused to the Hickstead team – the way they pull together is really impressive. Yesterday some of the scoring guys even had to become electricians when there was a power outage, and did so readily.

The generosity of sponsors and the kindness of teeming volunteers – scorers, writers, runners, commentators etc – make this an upbeat show that doesn’t need gold taps, it has charm aplenty just as it is. Of course I wasn’t serious about the taps or the chocolate in the first blog anyway, though I obviously didn’t put my point across well, as some seem to think I was.

And there is a buzz here – it’s much busier than on the opening day and the stands were packed to watch Valegro and will be again for the Nations Cup. It’s testament to Hickstead’s popularity and standing that it was awarded the first ever Nations Cup in Britain.

If H&H permits it, I’d like to volunteer to help out on the other side of the fence next year. I’m well aware that I’ll probably be on loo cleaning duty…