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Last month I travelled to Le Mans in France with Die Callas for the grand prix. I was very pleased with our  test, which scored 70.6%, good enough for second.

Unfortunately afterwards, “Cassie”, who is nervous of people, ran backwards and threw up her head when the steward put her hand into her mouth to check the bit. In doing so, she bit her tongue, which meant that when the steward finally managed to look there was blood and I was eliminated.

I believe this rule needs revising. Using this logic, a horse could jump to the side coming out of the arena and cut itself and be eliminated afterwards, too. In other sports, video playback, photographic evidence and human witnesses are consulted before contentious decisions are made. As we have close-up photos, three videos and several independent witnesses to call upon — and the opinion of five international judges who were both surprised and sympathetic — I think common sense should have prevailed. The judge at C said to me afterwards, “Anna, we are not blind”.

None of this takes away from the fact that we did a super test and got a great score, although it could be the most expensive elimination of all time both in terms of loss of prize-money and my spur-of-the-moment decision the next week to buy a young horse to cheer myself up!

No prize-giving prizes

Talking of highly strung horses, I was interested to hear the discussion regarding prize-givings at the Global Dressage Forum (see report, 5 November), with some of the most influential show organisers insisting that all competing horses must participate.  

Prize-givings are important and it’s great if horses can do them, but the ones that are terrified should not be forced into that situation. The competition is about how well the combination can do the test, not how well they stand still and cope with loud noises.

If this is an important skill for dressage horses then this should be in the test itself. I’m sure there are other photo opportunities for sponsors.

Not every rider has had their horse from day one; some are dealing with fall-out from past experiences that may not have been of their making. It’s not possible to turn back time and desensitise older horses as we do with our young ones at home, so there should be some compassion for those that get scared — after all, horses are flight animals and different characters.

I rode my former grand prix horse Pegasus in the parade at Aachen and made a video on my phone during the singing of the farewell. Pegasus just grazed, blindly ignoring the military band that marched past.

On another occasion, someone let off an aerosol “firework” in the middle of a pirouette in one of my demos. If that had happened on Cassie I’d still be flying round the stratosphere with it!

Ref: Horse & Hound; 12 November 2015