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At a recent FEI five-star seminar in Vienna, a lively debate took place. Speaking to one of the trainers who attended, the main thing coming out of that gathering was the fabulous dialogue that seems to be gelling the future of our sport. This dialogue between trainers, judges, riders and of course the FEI needs to happen more. Ours is such a passionate sport, which is why people can tend to go off on their own views, and this causes divide.

The judges’ education group is working on a clearer understanding of the code of points. As a trainer, I am amazed at the amount of work Katrina Wüst and Stephen Clarke are putting into this simplified code the FEI want, although why it’s necessary when the judges’ handbook is so comprehensive I’m not sure. It could be perceived as a waste of time but in these people’s hands, I’m sure it will be worthwhile.

A new system

It looks as though the new system for degree of difficulty, developed by Katrina and computer scientist Daniel Göhlen, will be used for the freestyle at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon and at the World Cup final in Paris next month. Noting that one of the judges for Paris has not used this system before, I hope they have balls of steel!

The likes of Isabell Werth and Cathrine Dufour are presenting degrees of difficulty worth a nine or a 10. But let’s remember that for the horses and riders at the level of ability or stage of career where they are still getting sevens, it’s important not to let the programme get so difficult that it ruins the harmony. We submit our choreographies to the FEI website and can see immediately what score we could get for degree of difficulty. You will not, however, be getting a nine if you don’t complete the programme for a nine. The degree of difficulty score depends on the technical execution.

There has been some superb riding at recent World Cup qualifiers. Anyone who thinks dressage is not moving with the times should look at Dorothee Schneider’s tests on Sammy Davis Jnr, as well as Cathrine Dufour’s, and others. The standard is fantastic — horses are uphill, light in the hand and harmonious.

Britain will be ably represented at the final in Paris by Emile Faurie who fought an incredible battle to get there, while Hayley Watson-Greaves sadly just missed out after such a good campaign.

Is it fair?

I wonder whether the system used to decide who gets a wild card (or “extra starting place” as it’s now called) to go to the World Cup final is fair? As we go to press, the FEI has not released the names of those who will get the extra slots in Paris, though it’s been reported that France’s Ludovic Henry and Ellesse Tzinberg, who competes for the Philippines, have been told they will go.

But Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and Atterupgaards Cassidy — who are ranked number three in the world — have been left out. The FEI was generous enough to let Valegro go to the 2014 final, which the public appreciated. I’m surprised the FEI hasn’t felt the same generosity and granted an “extra starting place” to Cathrine, for which I am sure the public would have been just as appreciative. The FEI have missed a brilliant opportunity to promote our sport.

Ref Horse & Hound; 22 March 2018