Opinion

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The competition season is in full swing and dressage sport seems ever more popular, with affiliated shows at my base at Cholderton so full we have had to ballot entries. Somerford Park Premier League has had to do the same. Balloting is never popular and, as an organiser, never undertaken lightly. It is great, however, that the sport is growing in popularity.

Bolesworth, Hartpury and Hickstead internationals should be well supported by riders, with Hickstead still seeking members for their £1,000 Club initiative to raise money to run the show, which was cancelled last year due to lack of funding.

Each member of the £1,000 Club can nominate a rider to contest the invitational class. Some of my sponsors, who are supporting the show, are holding competitions to choose a rider to compete in the class, which is a pick-your-own at any level.

Our loss

The move of the popular and successful British Dressage team chef and World Class performance manager Dickie Waygood to eventing is our loss and their gain.

I rode on Dickie’s first Nations Cup team in Saumur in 2010 and remember being impressed when he performed a citizen’s arrest on some Spanish riders, who attempted to invade our team arena time.

Dickie’s determination to lead from the back resulted in many years of success without treading on toes. He had the confidence and trust of the riders and will be a hard act to follow.

In good hands

Dickie is suceeded by Caroline Griffith, who is known to many members for her part in organising the national championships, as the World Class Podium Potential coordinator and mother of Lara Butler, the Rio Olympic team reserve rider.

Eyebrows have been raised at this potential conflict of interest, but Caroline has relevant experience and conflicts are inevitable in these roles. Anyone who has taken the time, trouble and interest to be involved in the sport for many years is likely to be connected in some way, either through horse ownership, training or judging. Integrity is all and, as the sport grows and succeeds, it will become more and more under the microscope.

Caroline’s first team has been a succesful one — a win in the recent Nations Cup in Compiègne — and she proved she has the quick-thinking skills required for the role.

I was watching Spencer Wilton’s winning test from the riders’ stand, when, just as he turned up the final centre line, a man with quite possibly the loudest rattling pram ever invented decided to bump it down the walkway only metres from the arena.

Neville’s (Supernova’s) ears were pricked so hard, they were nearly meeting in middle, but potential disaster was averted as Caroline’s arms shot over the arena fence faster than you could say “whoa boy”, as she pulled up that pram using a half-halt she certainly didn’t learn from any classical textbook.

It was most effective though and, once Spencer’s final halt was complete, she released her rollkur-like grip on the surprised man, child and pram. She rather graciously waved him along the path, as he looked back anxiously over his shoulder to make sure the union-beflagged “baby snatcher” wasn’t following.

Judging from this, I’d say our team is in good, firm hands!

Ref Horse & Hound; 1 June 2017