Opinion

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The depth of passion out there for our sport never ceases to amaze me. With volunteers, riders, trainers, judges, sponsors and supporters, we have a fantastic group of people wishing British dressage well. We also have two riders in the World Cup final to cheer on, and the winter championships and the World Equestrian Games to look forward to.

Last month I was coaching at the Keysoe CDI, where Simon Bates and his team ran a really good show. Because the weather was freezing, the cafe became a melting pot of discussion where everyone huddled to keep warm. One conversation revolved around the benefits of the British Young Riders Dressage Scheme of 20 years ago, from which so many of our current grand prix riders benefited. They had a wonderful time, with fund-raising initiatives and trips to Europe to watch training and visit international shows.

The British Dressage (BD) Youth squad may need to refind their fundraising talents now their budget for teams has been cut back by the British Equestrian Federation. I hope youth director Claire Moir will have the support she deserves to take her ideas forward.

The selectors looked happy watching the grand prix at Keysoe. There were some super combinations, such as Sonnar Murray-Brown and Erlantanz, who look as though they have an exciting future. Fiona Bigwood was just feeling her way with a new one that looks to have great potential, and on the same day at Hartpury, Charlotte Dujardin unleashed another superstar as Mount St John Freestyle did her first grand prix for 81%.

Junior and young rider performance adviser Paul Fielder was present, injecting confidence and encouraging riders to take more risk. He is pushing competitors to aim for medal places, not just team selection.

But, riders need an environment where they feel safe to do that — if they feel one bad score might result in them being dropped from team contention, they will ride conservatively. Win or learn, you don’t lose. I’ve used this tactic in recent test-riding clinics and it’s amazing how much improvement there is in a “safe” environment, when riders are not afraid to fail, and they start to realise their full potential.

Support network

The Bechtolsheimers’ ongoing support for Dressage at Hickstead has been a fabulous gift to the dressage community, and they have again made a generous donation, which is much appreciated.

Al Shira’aa stables have supported the new Elite Foals Registration Tour with a contribution towards their growing prize fund, so let’s take a moment to say thanks. There are more opportunities to support these ventures, so if anyone would like to become involved, please don’t hesitate.

It would be good to hear if BD intends to help these initiatives, too. Feeling supported by the governing body is essential for morale, and it was nice to see BD’s international representative, Lianne Martin, at Keysoe.

With so much to be positive about it, it saddens me to see negativity on social media. I agree with Spencer Wilton (comment, 5 April): the sport would benefit from riders supporting each other. We must not let trolls and “rider bashers” create an atmosphere where beginners are afraid to learn and riders are afraid to ride.

Ref Horse & Hound; 12 April 2018