Opinion

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Writing this before Christmas, knowing that when this column comes out in print most of us will be stuffed with turkey, trimmings and all the associated delight of the Christmas feast with round two — New Year — yet to come, I look back at 2017 as a transitional year.

Valegro’s wonderful retirement ceremony last Christmas at Olympia brought us into a year of uncertainty. The international senior championship focus for 2017 was the Europeans in Gothenburg and while poor Gareth Hughes’ luck ran out before the competition started, Emile Faurie, Spencer Wilton and I did our best and could not be too disappointed with fourth place. Watching Sönke Rothenberger ride the amazing Cosmo to that spine-tingling music was one of the moments of the year.

Once again our British pony riders’ medal proved the ever growing enthusiasm and ability of our early stage competitors.

As yet, we struggle to get into the medal zone at junior and young rider level and this is something that needs to change in 2018. The addition of the children-on-horses at European level is something I look forward to seeing develop, having watched the success of this category in showjumping. Great for those taller children rather than them drowning ponies, this can be a useful ladder for the transition from ponies to horses.

The ever-growing number of British Dressage championships may seem mind-boggling but to see so many people catered for can only be a good thing. The nationals showed once again what a force Charlotte has become at every level, and that it was with so many British-bred horses is a great showcase for British breeding.

It’s the job of all us riders to get behind British breeding so we can match foreign competition and dispel the myth that people have to buy abroad. And although there was uproar over Charlotte winning so many championships, my advice is to take it as a chance to watch, learn and celebrate the best in Britain.

Christmas spirit

Olympia loses none of its appeal and wonderful atmosphere. The grand prix freestyle was great for British dressage as Emile came so close to being the seventh Brit in a row to win it, although he didn’t. We need to ensure the grand prix day is a sell out next year and give Simon-Brooks-Ward the best Christmas present ever. Maybe the emergence of a new British star over the coming year will keep passion ignited.

There is much to look forward to in 2018 with some exciting prospects aiming for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, North Carolina. As you read this, Charlotte and I will be heading to the Liverpool International Horse Show to ride En Vogue and Hawtins Delicato respectively in the inter I freestyle.

Judging by the fabulous show Nina Barbour and her team put on at Bolesworth, this should be a great event and I’m looking forward to working off my Christmas dinner and taking back the reins on “Del” in preparation for our WEG challenge later in the New Year.

Liverpool also showcases some spectacular non-equestrian acts and live music so, going on Nina’s record, it should be a spectacular start to the New Year.

Ref Horse & Hound; 28 December 2017