Brits are on song at Hickstead, but about the music

  • Hurrah, we have another plus-70% scorer for our World Equestrian Games team (72.42%, to be precise). European medallist Liebling II went brilliantly for Carl Hester to win today’s CDI5* grand prix special. Potential team-mate Maria Eilberg completely made up for her best forgotten Aachen result on Two Sox for third with just a smidgen under 70%. In the freestyle, Adelinde Cornelissen predictably languished in a league of her own with Jerich Parzival on 85.65%, but Laura Bechtolsheimer and second string Andretti H flew the Union Flag for third with an impressive 78.25%. Much more of that in next week’s Horse & Hound.

    Having spent three whole days watching (fabulous) dressage, a word about the pinnacle, the grand prix freestyle to music. Laura rode to a fun, young, upbeat reggae compilation that took her audience away from the sand of an overcast West Sussex arena and slapped them in Jamaica at sunset with a rum-based cocktail in hand. This is key. Sure, dressage has to be correct, but if it wants to continue to draw a crowd it’s going to have to accept that people want more in the way of entertainment. Unless all the bums on seats are aficionados, the smoothness of your transitions and regularity of your extensions isn’t going to have them hooked.

    German rider Anja Plonzke understands the importance of an audience; she has a video-based website. She also knows how to entertain. Anybody who can incorporate Black Legend’s “Trouble with Me” and “Ghetto Superstar” into their freestyle gets my vote. Never mind the quality of Le Mont D’Or’s passage, the horse piaffed straight into a canter pirouette then shot off down the centerline to a halt accompanied by the sound of tires screeching on tarmac. Now who said the Germans don’t have a sense of humour? I’m not sure what the choral Phil Collins thrown in after Lady Gaga was all about but, each to their own, it’s subjective stuff. This showed imagination and was tricky to pull-off but, whatever the outcome (fourth), it was highly liable to get them talked about. Savvy.

    All you dressage divas who want to ride for your own satisfaction and would rather audiences be exterminated than distract your horse from his flying-changes, a word to the wise…when interest dwindles, sponsors drift, and dressage is removed from the Olympic disciplines, you’ll find no sympathetic ears to bend about the travesty. There has to be a way of preserving the purity of the sport while bringing it to the masses. Totilas The Wonderhorse can’t single-hoofedly draw the crowds, which was proved by his absence from Hickstead. One horse can’t be at every show to guarantee ticket sales.

    For full report and pictures from Dressage at Hickstead, don’t miss Horse & Hound 5 August issue.

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