Olympic fever is about to hit. It was great to see Valegro looking so fresh and full of fun at Hartpury. Let’s hope the Germans and the Dutch were watching the live stream.

The Americans have also been campaigning hard and successfully. There have been inevitable highs and lows building up and some new stars have emerged.

Laura Tomlinson has a new partner in Rosalie B who looks destined for great things, but for Gareth Hughes and me there was disappointment as his lovely mare Briolinca went lame at the very last minute in Rotterdam and my campaign ended abruptly as a loose stallion galloped through the arena at the World Cup qualifier in Brno and Die Callas broke through a fence to escape him.

Ironically, although not riding, Gareth and I will both be in Rio as dressage coaches to our respective eventing teams, Australia and Brazil.

The Olympic climate will be unpredictable; it’s the Brazilian winter and temperatures can drop to 7-8 degrees, but when I coached at the test event last year it was approaching the 30s.
The weather could prove influential as some horses respond to differing temperatures by becoming “hotter” or “colder” themselves so the competition will be made all the more exciting by the environment.

Why the low marks?

There’s another kind of fever at this time of year: regionals fever. This is a well-known phenomenon whereby sales of rescue remedy increase by 10% nationally and scores drop by 5% on the day.
I’ve always wondered why the scores seem to be much lower at the regionals than the qualifiers. Do the judges mark harder? Or do riders under-perform with the pressure?

There is a theory that judges are more “encouraging” in the qualifiers, but the judges I’ve spoken to are adamant this is not the case. The new system will be tested for the first time at a championship, so it will be interesting to see if the silver section is as big as predicted and the gold as small.

Feeling the love

When buying horses, there are so many parallels with human relationships. With some you feel it and with others you just don’t. With all the best will and advice in the world, what on paper looks like the perfect match — with good looks, movement and temperament  — is no good if it doesn’t make your heart flutter. If you feel the love you will put up with imperfections and stick with it.

I never talk people into horses; if they aren’t desperate to have it and terrified of losing it, they don’t like it enough. But having had a lot of tricky horses to ride, I can confirm that the most important thing is the temperament.

Continued below…

More blogs from Anna:

An average horse with an amazing temperament will become a good horse. A talented horse with a tricky temperament will often under-perform. Unreliable horses can be emotional rollercoasters.

Apart from all the other more scientific advice I can offer — and before you part with your hard-earned cash — I suggest you look your potential partner, with looks, talent and breeding, deep in the eye and ask that vital question that can make the difference between stardom and defeat, heartbreak and joy: ‘Are you an a***hole or not?’

Ref: Horse & Hound; 21 July 2016