Opinion

I was lucky enough to be in Florida for the five-star show at Wellington recently and was thrilled to be invited to an owners’ meeting and reception. It took me back to 2011 when the tide started to change for British dressage and how that might just have had something to do with former World Class performance director Will Connell, who was the speaker at the reception. I also spotted former British team physio Andy Thomas in the background, which made me wonder whether they have all moved to the USA!

The vibe of the meeting was high-energy and I get the feeling the US team are on the edge of success, as good horses come together with good management. There was more than a whiff of a winning formula in the air. The structure, strength and power Will was delivering made me feel as though I was with a cult!

But they were all so welcoming and I was invited to see what it was all about. The owners of all the horses that had represented the US in 2017 were given a gift as a thank you — a great touch — and I had a chance to talk to Betsy Juliano, owner of Adrienne Lyle’s very exciting prospect Salvino.

Betsy has set up an owners’ task force using her considerable experience as a long-term supporter of US dressage and her business acumen. Owners or prospective owners can call Betsy, who is always willing to help.

She advises anyone considering ownership to seek advice from other owners before engaging with a prospective horse or rider, to minimise misunderstanding and to be prepared. For example, if high performance is what you want, talk to others to understand the financial ramifications of keeping a horse at that level. If your aim is winning or being on a team, make sure your rider understands that and work together to avoid any resentment down the line.

There are no rules on syndication in the US — you can have as many people as you like in a syndicate — but the key thing is to keep everyone in the loop or get a good manager to do it for you. It’s all down to communication and managing expectations; while it may not sound like rocket science I was inspired talking to Betsy, who is jolly good at managing those expectations.

The US fundraisers can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single night.

I wonder whether we are thinking enough outside the box of the immediate horse world. Granted, they have people like Bruce Springsteen donating prizes as his daughter Jessica is a showjumper, but are we approaching companies, doing our homework, showing them what we can do? Maybe we should look at forming an owners’ task force over here.

A lost educational opportunity?

In Florida, I witnessed for the first time a competition judged without collective marks.

Although to the professionals the loss of these might seem immaterial, to those new to top-level competition or those just starting grand prix, unfortunately the loss of the judges’ comments at the bottom of the sheet is a missed opportunity for information and education. While judges might not have much to say on the sheets of professional riders, for the young and green this is a valuable opportunity for riders to receive the judges’ feedback to help their education.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 22 February 2018