Opinion

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Kelvin Bywater’s team has created a national championships which is a spectacular “show”. I experienced several aspects this year: competing, training, socialising, commentating, judging, shopping, oh and dog walking — the nationals tick all the boxes.

Stable manager Steve Fazakerley does his very best on this challenging site to keep all horses safe and comfortable. If HS2 does mean a change of show site, grooms, riders and horses would appreciate it if there was the space to have barn-type stables or at least ones with an overhang, to provide some shelter.

No riders will miss negotiating that slippery horse walk either. Many horses have their first exposure to a big show environment here, the clattering of hooves on that walkway producing movements defying description in the British Dressage Handbook.

Chief steward Dan Chapman always maintains an aura of calm, even when managing the 7am arena familiarisation with 40-plus jittery horses and ashen-faced riders, and then somebody falls off!

A Charlotte masterclass

Slick and professional being the theme, the team management and logistical skills of Alan Davies, groom to Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, was a joy to behold. Stabled in the same row, I observed first hand the engine room that powers Team Hester. Everyone knew their job, there was no panic or raised voices, just a smooth coordinated operation providing an ideal relaxed atmosphere.

How many times did that crew tack up? Multiple arena walks, exercising, test riding and all those countless prize-givings — every time the horses were immaculate.

Were the nationals a Charlotte Dujardin monopoly? Yes, but if you love dressage and sport, if you admire success and you are proud of British dressage, then watching what Charlotte achieved at this show should only inspire and give you immense pleasure. Every horse looked happy, confident and totally in balance. She gave an absolute masterclass in test riding and how to win.

Her three rides in the intermediaire I should be compulsory viewing for judges, trainers and riders. Make no mistake, she has worked very hard for this, including investing diligently in her personal fitness. I hope that all those young riders out there have taken note of that. It’s hard to believe that Charlotte is the same teenager that nearly had a meltdown when I wouldn’t let her have her tests called a few years ago.

Eva Möller provided yet more education and expertise in her ride judging of the young horses — brilliant riding, and judging that was totally understandable.

The national champion title on the other hand was not a monopoly, nor a foregone conclusion. Lara Butler more than justified her reserve status for the Olympics and Europeans with a win in the grand prix on Dr Bechtolsheimer’s Rubin Al Asad. Carl Hester showcased his amazing riding winning the freestyle on Katherine Bateson’s ride Alcazar. And the overall national title produced a deserving winner in Hayley Watson Greaves on WG Rubin’s Nite.

This is Hayley’s first national title; she has done a great job developing the talents of her lovely horse, producing two fabulous tests. A great result to end a fantastic show.

Ref Horse & Hound; 21 September 2017