Opinion

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I enjoyed the winter champs and riding the dressage divas demo with the Altogether Equestrian team dressed in full bling. Many horses blow up at Hartpury doing a straight test at lower levels in silence, so taking four in together with a light show, blaring music and dry ice to do grand prix work is a big ask.

Passing down wisdom to the younger generation is the duty of the senior riders. So I did encourage my fellow divas to wear their stocks firmly pinned as a few years ago, following a similar display at Hartpury but wearing a more flimsy costume, I was sent “fan mail” by one of the only straight men there, informing me that he had very much enjoyed my demo as he could see “right down my top”.

Hartpury was a great showcase for the young professionals. Dannie Morgan, who won two championships, seems to be being tempted from his first love — eventing — by the opportunity to ride the gorgeous Headmore Davina, while Sophie Wells rode two beautiful gala tests.

Becoming a dressage professional is no easy task — especially for those without financial help from parents, who have to work harder to maximise their opportunities. I’ve always thought a module of the young professionals’ award should be judged on ability to mount while on the phone.

This would prove dexterity, clear thinking and the ability to communicate with both man and beast in one easy task. Buying a pair of brown boots and looking around for the medals certainly isn’t enough. In this job, downtime is more likely to be something to do with falling off, and your balance will be all about your riding, not your work/life.

The show also highlighted the strength of British breeding with many of our top studs well represented by international quality offspring. That wonderful stallion, the late Dimaggio, made an impression with many progeny performing well and providing me with the “horse I’d most like to take home” in Keystone Drummer Boy, who contested the advanced medium gold with Luke Baber-Davies.

I am always looking to buy horses and, excited by the quality after the championships, I had a ring-round to see about visiting some of the UK-based ones. Only two of the eight I called answered the phone or replied to messages. It seems we have the product but perhaps not the marketing, back-up or inclination to sell.

New toys

There have been some exciting leaps forward in the FEI bitting rulebook, giving us a lot of new concepts to work with and bits to try. These have been designed with the horse’s comfort in mind and include ported snaffles and bridoons with independent side action, so new “toys” to play with.

At a recent demo with Dale Myler, the dressage riders were gathering round the table like bees around a honeypot — and these new bits are British Dressage legal, too.

Ref Horse & Hound; 4 May 2017