The starting order meant that for each of Charlotte’s tests I was on training duties helping Carl and Nip Tuck warm up back in the collecting ring. But, aside from the Valegro effect, I am taking away three other observations.
There are very few shows in the world that can attract full houses for pure technical dressage tests, as opposed to freestyle classes. As I cast my eye around the capacity crowd spellbound by this year’s grand prix, it is hard to believe that it is only 13 years since Simon Brooks-Ward and I sat over a breakfast meeting in central London racking our brains as to how we could include dressage in the Olympia programme.
We wanted a strategy that was sustainable and complemented the iconic status that Simon and his family had worked so hard to achieve at Olympia.
In recent years the freestyle has always sold out, but this year’s grand prix attendance was another landmark in the journey.
Not just a pretty face
Watching the masterclasses with Ferdi and Michael Eilberg and Laura Tomlinson it was evident how fortunate we are now to have such talent available — and I don’t mean only the equine eye candy used for both demonstrations, but the style of delivery and content.
To have home-grown trainers and riders of their calibre, who are both articulate and engaging, means the growth and popularity of dressage is in safe hands.
There was plenty of good riding — and horses — on show this year. I know I have a personal interest in Nip Tuck, but I’m so impressed with how he is developing. This huge gelding is discovering how to transfer his bodyweight back over his hindquarters and, combined with a great temperament, we should expect him to find another level of scoring ability next season.
I’ve commented on Carl’s test-riding skill many times before, but his Olympia freestyle was a masterclass of timing, strategy and how to ride a horse to the limit of its current ability for each step of the test.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 25 December 2014