In the days before the show, I was amazed by how many new countries had nice horses and
good riding, so I already knew the overall standard would be a lot better than it ever has been before.
The top 11 teams all averaged over 70% — that hasn’t happened before. It used to be that medals came for teams with two average horses and one really good one. Now you need two really special ones to be in the shake-up.
My Swedish riders all had a few mistakes and finished sixth, but they all went for it, which you have to do at a championship. The more risks you take the closer to the mistakes you flirt, but when the standard is this high, you can’t just go for a safe clear round. That’s nothing but good for the sport.
On paper it was clear Germany would win. Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose was brilliant, but I could already see a question mark over the mare’s soundness; she was uneven in her trot extensions and I was not at all surprised when she withdrew.
I was also impressed by the young American Laura Graves. I thought the judges were mean in marking her [74.871%], but that can happen with a new horse on the scene.
It was good to see some of the more experienced judges awarding over 70% to some other unknown horses from unknown countries. Those who haven’t judged so many championships were sometimes on 65%, but hopefully they will grow in confidence to award higher marks when deserved. If they are cautious and consistently mark half a point lower, you get a 5% difference.
The arenas have not been up to championship standard. All the warm-up arenas were badly sloping and the main arena surface was not ideal for dressage — it’s really jumping footing. Of course it didn’t help having so much rain, but that’s not the organisers’ fault.
It was also disappointing to have no trade stands around the main arena and very limited food choices.
I normally buy a few things, but I’m not prepared to walk two miles to the village for the privilege!
Originally published in H&H magazine on Thursday 4 September