Opinion

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Event director Phillip Cheetham and his team put on another great show this year. It is always a rider-friendly event and any inevitable niggles are sorted out by the multi-tasking Phillip without any fuss. That included hand-delivering supergroom Alan Davies a bottle of wine to thank him for bringing so many horses — including Valegro.

From my involvement of running a number of dressage events I know at first hand just how much work and graft is needed. We riders can be all too quick to complain about things, or question arrangements, without realising the implications on all the many other aspects involved in running an event. It was therefore great to hear that Charlie and Abi Hutton, together with Maria Eilberg and Anne Dunham, all volunteered to help with jobs, including writing for the judges and scoring.

Gaining insight

Hartpury had another good team of both national and international judges and writing for them is actually an excellent way of learning and gaining insight into the complex task we challenge our hard-working judges with.

That also applies to the duties of official stewards. They have an important supervisory role including, among other things, maintaining horse welfare and keeping things running to time often while interacting with riders and their connections at stressful moments.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the best stewards get the job done with little fuss and are unobtrusive; they solve problems as opposed to seeking them out. Fortunately, Britain has a number of good stewards who combine these special human skills, and I think Dan Chapman is an impeccable role model for any aspiring steward.

It was great the FEI steward general, Jacques van Dael, was at Hartpury to conduct an FEI stewards course and provide expert guidance.

A positive step

I was very pleased with how our two horses went. We’re taking a long-term approach with Bubblingh and allowing his rate of physical development to dictate his show plan and targets.

We’re selecting shows with the right amount of atmosphere needed for his mental development. Hartpury’s outdoor arena with raised seating area and surrounding shops, together with the buzz during the indoor gala evening, can be a step too far for some horses, but Bubblingh coped well — and with high percentages in both the grand prix and the freestyle, the show did him good.

Gill and Alfranco (Alfie) produced another strong grand prix special test, resulting in a plus-71% and third place behind two British Olympic horses and they are now showing their competitiveness at the top end of the line-up.

It took some persuasion to get Alfie out of bed for the test (see picture, below), but he was on point when he finally did rouse himself.

With more than 680 tests performed, Hartpury was a busy show and — together with the paras’ final selection trials for the European Championships — there was plenty of nail-biting tension created.

It’s great to see new kids on the block alongside experienced campaigners and, along with everyone else, I shall be following the forthcoming Europeans in August.

Ref Horse & Hound; 13 July 2017