Just as with horses and people, some events have it, some don’t. I can honestly say I was taken aback by the splendour and majesty of Bolesworth International. Having been invited to the inaugural invitational dressage class at Olympia in 2003, where you now can’t get a seat for love nor money six months in advance, I’d bet that Bolesworth is on the verge of something big.

Despite the appalling tropical storm that raged over Cheshire, all eight invited dressage riders turned up to compete. I’ve never met a more helpful, smiley bunch of people in my life as the Bolesworth volunteers.

The thought that went into looking after us was amazing, even down to hampers for the grooms on their journeys home. Of course it was sad that some classes had to be cancelled due to the freak weather, but the show had to go on. 2,500 tickets were sold in advance —that’s without attendance on the gate.

With Nip Tuck, my initial thought was not — for once — how to get him round the arena. My only potential horror story was the bridge over the moat and how I was going to get him over it. However, with lots of people standing either side Nip Tuck didn’t even see the water.

The capacity crowd gave the feeling of Olympia or even the London Olympics. With raucous applause and cheering it was a superb atmosphere, and the bowl of an arena gave spectators a fabulous view.

We riders also had to attend a “learning zone” where members of the public could ask us questions — a great idea — then a photo call for the 2012 Olympic team, all of us greyer round the edges but sporting big smiles. It is vitally important in showcasing our sport to show the public we’re human and friendly.

Even a lane shut for four hours on the M5 didn’t stop us feeling heartfelt thanks to Nina Barbour and her team, and Richard Davison for getting behind the organising. Congratulations from us!

Olympic predictions

At time of writing, Rotterdam CDI is due to start, so I can only look into my crystal ball to predict who goes to Rio. Seemingly Edward Gal is out of the running with both his horses. We’ve seen the rise of US riders and the huge scores at the German championships (no surprise there.) Rio is looking wide open. The emerging talent from the US, with newcomers Laura Graves and Kasey Perry-Glass, is looking very exciting. Valegro will showcase at Hartpury and we hope our plan of keeping him fresh will pay off.

Olympic pressure will undoubtedly benefit those who have been there and done it before. It is not an easy task for emerging stars to carry that sort of weight on their shoulders. Although European scores are very good, it will be interesting to see who pops up on the podium. Our team looks buoyant and exciting with Nip Tuck gaining confidence in all he does and Fiona’s mare pushing 80%. It’s all open for the fourth slot.

The most difficult of all

So many people get confused about self-carriage. Forget piaffe, passage, pirouettes and tempi changes, self-carriage is undoubtedly the most difficult thing to achieve. One competitor at a recent show asked the judge, who had written “self-carriage” on the test sheet, whether the judge meant more? No, some, the judge replied. Remember, the give and retake of the reins reveals a lot.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 30 June 2016