Opinion

On my second trip to ride in Doha (that’s the Middle East, Qatar), I found it different from the first trip a few years ago, when the standard was a little lower — therefore easier to get your hands into the large pot of prize money. How things change! I saw several top-ranked riders there this year, including Isabell Werth, who must spend more time at shows than anywhere else.

It was good to hear that Isabell’s beautiful mare Bella Rose has made a full recovery from injury and will be appearing in competition again this year. Is there any other rider in history with such an amazing stable? She’s the only rider to achieve over 80% at grand prix with three horses; an incredible feat. If I ever feel like complaining about hard work, I’ll remind myself of Isabell’s endless schedule of shows, training, running a stable, house, being a mother and, not least, having qualified as a lawyer.

Doha has a reputation for good weather. This year it rained every day bar one. With three British riders there I wonder if there was any connection! The other two Brits showed much promise, although Hayley Watson-Greaves didn’t get the ride she wanted when Rubins Nite, aka Squeaks, spotted a screaming baby, which somewhat squeaked him for the rest of the test.

And how satisfying it was to see Super Nova II win the grand prix special with nearly 77% for Spencer Wilton. This is the sort of score we need to target if Britain is to continue to figure in the medals.

Wanadoo really tried his heart out to give me some very pleasing scores and a wonderful way for our partnership to end. His owner Coral Ingham and I agreed he is too gorgeous to pass on so he’s going to enjoy a semi-retirement as a schoolmaster.

Be cool about warming up

This subject comes from my being made aware of a thread on the British Dressage (BD) forum with some stories that make my hair stand on end.

There’s a BD code of conduct for warming up and riders should know these “rules for school” yet too many don’t, or ignore them. And stewards are there to uphold the rules, so please treat these volunteers with respect.

We all know we can win medals at home; at competitions we’re there to lose them. Maybe one reason is that people don’t take their regular warm-up to shows. When a warm-up area is overcrowded, some riders may be too nervous to ride on a long rein, for fear of being bumped into. Some have a death wish around others.

One international competitor told me that at a regional her horse was so nervous she couldn’t warm up at all. When a young horse is used to working around a couple of others at home then faces 25 or so in a competition warm-up it’s not surprising it feels like taking for the hills. And think of the one-horse owner. With the number of people competing at regional and local shows, show organisers have to think carefully about what they can offer; what size arena is needed for warming up if so many classes are to run concurrently?

Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 March 2017