Opinion

This year’s Blenheim was a success. The cross-country courses were good, and I liked the new riders’ tent and where it was situated. The Event Rider Masters’ (ERM) final was very exciting, and I was delighted to finish third in the series overall — rather better than last year’s dismal effort where I didn’t score any points at all!

I believe the final will take place elsewhere next year, which is a shame for ERM as Blenheim is an amazing venue, but I think Blenheim will be the biggest loser as ERM has attracted a new global audience and fan base to eventing this year. The series has built on last year’s beginnings, and next year will be even better. I’m certainly all fired up for it. The competition has been really tough, and more and more Europe-based riders will want to be part of it in the future.

Adding the ERM end-of-season party to Blenheim’s traditional Saturday-night party created a great night and a big improvement on recent years. I have one gripe about Blenheim and other events — it is so hard to get healthy food options. There is a real catering opportunity here for an enterprising person — is it surprising that so many of us cook and eat in our lorries when the majority of what is on offer is burgers and chips?

A test for judges

As has often been the case this season, there were big discrepancies in the dressage marks at Blenheim. I had a thought about this — I am having to retake my lorry driving licence at the moment, and part of it is a test in hazard perception where you watch videos of potential hazards.

Dressage judges could have a similar test, where they see horses doing different movements and have to mark them. There would then be an acceptable range of marks for each movement seen and if the candidates fall outside that range too many times, they fail the test and have to retrain before trying again.

There are people, such as Marilyn Payne on the FEI eventing committee, who appear to be proactive in improving judging standards, which is a positive move.

End-of-season plans

We are now on the countdown to the last few events of the season. It will be exciting to see the changes at Boekelo, which is an event that continues to innovate and improve, which is partly why it is so popular with riders. It has a huge new all-weather arena for dressage and showjumping, and as the site has moved somewhat, we look forward to seeing whether the cross-country has a fresh look and feel.

I also have two horses going to Pau — NZB Campino, who missed Burghley because of a pulled muscle, and Kiltubrid Rhapsody, for whom it should be the ideal step-up to four-star. Pau is another lovely event where hopefully we get the last of the European sunshine — and a bit of foie gras…

And on to 2018

The Brits are on a high after European gold, Oliver Townend’s Burghley win and Gemma Tattersall’s ERM series victory. It is amazing how fortunes can turn around and we can look forward to a highly competitive World Equestrian Games next year. And Blenheim showed there are some lovely young horses coming through to the top level among various nations, which is exciting.

Ref Horse & Hound; 28 September 2017