Such is the quality and quantity of shows ahead, I can’t remember looking forward to a home competition season quite so much.

With two places at the winter championships, fitness is my enemy! But onwards and upwards — the summer season is practically halfway through as far as qualification for the summer nationals is concerned.

British Dressage (BD) membership had reportedly risen by 7% by the end of last year, so it’s good to see market forces working as they should with extra opportunities for the new influx.

Area Festivals saw 32% more competitors last year. This time they include classes up to inter I, proving how “professional” amateur riders are becoming. Meanwhile the friendly Team Quest is set to introduce even more newbies to our sport.

Dressage is spreading its wings geographically, too, with the Ian Stark Equestrian Centre in Scotland recently approved to host affiliated shows.

Then there are championships for veterans and retrained racehorses. So don’t book that holiday just yet…

On the international front, there’s good news for those with team aspirations but perhaps without the time or resources for extensive overseas travel.

As well as Hickstead CDIO, Bury Farm and Bishop Burton are due to host international fixtures. While in Cheshire, Bolesworth — such a hit with the showjumpers last year — has an invitational inter I freestyle scheduled in June.

Jo Graham and Susie Farnon, the new team at the county’s Somerford Park, aim to run an international alongside its popular premier show in May 2016.

Rio beckons

It came as quite a jolt last month to see that the Rio 2016 dressage ground jury long-list has been announced. It hardly seems possible that another Olympics is almost upon us.

The dozen top-level judges, from which five will be drawn to officiate in Rio, includes two Brits, Stephen Clarke and Andrew Gardner. Sadly, because judges on the final panel must be of different nationalities, one of this esteemed pair will miss out.

I can’t wait for another Olympics.

Talking of Rio…Carl Hester!

You simply can’t retire after these Olympics, as is rumoured.

You are the best thing that’s ever happened to British dressage. You are inspiring, your training threads run through every British success; those gold medals and world records wouldn’t have happened without you. There is no accolade too great.

You told me years ago, as we stood watching a horse and rider, that I was looking at a future gold medallist. Her name was Charlotte Dujardin. But she would be the first to say that Britain’s new place on the world dressage stage is, in the main, down to you.

Switching off…or on?

Who says mobile phones and horses don’t mix? If you have a tense horse, give more walk breaks and send that text.

So often we walk, trot, canter and only walk again to cool off. More moments of relaxation are needed mid-work. So switch off the horse — and switch on the phone!

Oh pants!

There was a time when the only concern we riders had about our underwear was whether it would pass inspection should one fall off and end up in hospital.

Now there are added dilemmas. Does one put up with VPL or wear something uncomfortable yet invisible? Badly placed seams only make themselves known when it’s too far into a training session to change. Yet daring to go bare isn’t really viable lest the above happens.

Inevitably things have moved on, and last month’s British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) International fair saw the launch of anatomically researched undergarments designed to protect the parts most riders need a medical textbook to locate.

Strategically placed padding and the endorsement of Mr Hester — now that’s saying “pants” to ordinary knickers!

Ref: H&H 12 March, 2015