Whether it’s for the Olympic Games or a big day when only a top result will do, it’s difficult to produce a horse spot-on for the occasion.

Some horses are kept fresh with fewer competitions, while just as many need exposure to settle, gain confidence and/or for the rider to know how much can be asked.

All partnerships need practice and polish. And many a class is lost because a horse becomes distracted by the judges’ table or car, arenas in close proximity, umbrellas and other show-day paraphernalia. Even at European level eventing, I once witnessed a medal evaporate as papers fluttered to the floor from a judge’s box.

Replicating a competition atmosphere by hiring in a few friends to eat crisps, pop cans, let their phones ring constantly and mimic the judges sometimes works.

One partnership that has been getting out and about is Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH. They’re currently the new world number one. But that’s not to say that Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, long-term previous occupants of that slot, are under threat for Olympic gold.

Yes, two judges did have Kristina nudging ahead of Charlotte at last year’s Europeans. But one warning shot across its bows is all the Carl Hester wonder yard needs. My money is on “fresh” for Rio.

An outstanding partnership

At a recent competition, I couldn’t help but watch a combination as they worked. I just had to investigate…

The rider is Jessica Sanderson, her pony Little Byrom Patchwork – 13.2hh and out of a Welsh section B mare covered by an escapee gypsy pony. Their trainers are Ian Woodhead and Jessica’s mum.

No, I was not tipped off. This partnership caught my eye simply because they stood out.

Too few 12 and 13-year-olds are produced well enough. The buying of a good horse or pony is one thing, but many do not realise that this must be more than matched by training.

Heavy metal

This bronze, silver and gold system is almost impossible to get one’s head around, even for us professionals, so heaven help the amateur and occasional competitor.

Entering a rider for his first ever medium and advanced medium, I inadvertently put an R. That used to mean “restricted” — equivalent to bronze or silver, surely. Yet it catapulted him straight into the gold category — the old open. And we weren’t the only ones.

From what I hear, many a competitor has had to contact British Dressage (BD) to clarify their status.

Call me old-fashioned, but this new set-up is anything but golden!

Dreaded vet test

Does a horse ever 100% pass a vet’s examination? When my new mare’s X-rays came through, I had a German vet, the top vet for the Verden sales, an Olympic vet from Ireland and a leading UK vet all take a look. The difference of opinion was astonishing.

There’s almost nothing wrong; but the crux lies in the “almost”. In the end, it was up to the buyer — me.

I remembered a horse we sold many years ago. One vet failed him with navicular, another for a heart murmur. The third, who happened to be the eminent yet formidable Peter Scott Dunn, announced him perfectly sound, with a brilliant heart and passed him with flying colours.

Needless to say, my mare has arrived. And so far, so good.

Super-supple

I enjoyed reading a recent grand prix test sheet. “Lacking suppleness to the left,” said one judge. “Lacked suppleness to the right,” commented another. Both gave sixes. The third gave an eight. All three judges were on the short side of the arena.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 25 February 2016