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How important it is to get words right. Not only to find the correct ones, whichever they might be, but also to be understood by the masses.

Among my pet hates are the words “pure dressage”, used by some to reference dressage done by British Dressage (BD) registered horses or FEI dressage riders and horses.

All dressage should be pure! It should be the same at a dressage competition or a horse trials. Dressage is dressage. No one describes showjumping at horse trials as “impure showjumping”, though arguably at the end of a three-day event with a stiff horse, it can be!

Then there is classical dressage, and whether competitive dressage is classical or not. Here the arguments begin… To be classical, it must stand the test of time, have excellence, be cited as a model, be in proportion, harmonious, and more words.

In any case, let me have a bet. When we’re all dead and gone, the legacy that Carl Hester in particular leaves dressage in this country and internationally will be classified as classical — and very much dressage.

The row is around the terms “rollkur”, “deep and round”, “above the bit”, and “stretching”. It’s about the interpretation of each, and whether it’s classical or not.

One needs several pages to cover the subject. Briefly, however, my understanding is that rollkur is horrid; one tugs on the reins and forces the horse to give in to the bit.

In “deep and round”, the horse is worked just so. One sees this shape in a showjumping ring as often as in a dressage warm-up arena. And it’s here that the real row starts.

“Its nose is behind the vertical.” “Photograph it and report it!”

Pause, please; lower your own nose and you will find your nose comes behind the vertical too. I think that there is “too deep and too round”; and almost everyone in the medal zone is addressing this.

“Above the bit” can sometimes help a horse to come off his forehand, so thus can work for some. Stretching is when one allows the horse to stretch forward and down with the nose in front of the vertical.

“Long and low” is a term that’s dying out, thank goodness, and can suggest a horse is flat and down in the withers. The most important thing is not where the horse’s head and neck are, but that they are where you, the rider, wants them to be.

Clashing conundrums

With 2017 fast approaching, I spent an evening checking next season’s show dates.

No sooner had I reached April than I was already spotting duplications. The new London International three-star show versus the BD winter championships; now that is a stunning clash. As is Royal Windsor four-star versus Addington Manor Premier League in May. Then in September there’s Blenheim, our local big horse trials, slap bang in the middle of the BD national championships.

I’m unsure if we should be exasperated or counting ourselves lucky to have the choice.

One way to avoid clashes is the growing trend for virtual shows, whereby competitors submit videos of themselves riding a test to be judged. Good for those in far-flung locations or without transport, maybe. But beware an army of expert cameramen and clever video editors being drafted in.

That said, if technology can be extended to my giving lessons via satellite to anywhere in the world from the comfort of my armchair, count me in…

Ref Horse & Hound; 1 December 2016