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Dressage at Hickstead invents new hybrid class

Dressage maestro Dane Rawlins has devised a new competition format he hopes will endear his sport to the masses: a dressage and show jumping hybrid.

The competition comprises a single round in which riders will be asked to perform dressage movements including flying changes and half-passes, plus tackle show jumps ranging from 1.20m to 1.30m in front of judges.

There is also a joker fence, which riders can set at any height above 1.30m for extra points.

Dane, who founded Dressage at Hickstead, has joined forces with Olympic event rider Eddy Stibbe in a bid to capture a wider audience. Their “Eventers’ Challenge” will take place during the CDIO at Dressage at Hickstead between 12-2pm on, 30 July. Twelve eventers and show jumpers have been invited to compete for £2,500 in prize-money.

The competition is not open to dressage riders, but Dane said this only applied for 2006. He and other dressage stars, including Richard Davison, want to compete in future.

He views the class, conceived before the hit TV show Only Fools On Horses gripped the nation, as a way to capitalise on public interest surrounding equestrian sports.

“We’ve only scratched the surface,” said Dane. “We can be haughty in dressage — it’s just a smart French word that’s about correct training. When you see eventers risking their lives for sport, it puts everything else in perspective. Style and speed will come into play in this competition, but they won’t be able to go hell for leather.”

Celebrity show jumping trainer Tim Stockdale has entered, even though he readily admits dressage “isn’t my thing”.

“The problem with dressage is the audience can’t always tell why one horse was better,” he said. “For a wider audience to get involved, there needs to be some tangible element for the average person to understand.”

Eventer Rodney Powell, who has entered his young horse Zin Zan, said: “It may turn out that you have to have a special horse for it, like with the eventing grand prix, but there’s no cross-country and it’s on a surface, so it shouldn’t upset the horses.”

Others on the bill include show jumpers John Whitaker and William Funnell and eventer Tina Cook.

For more details, (tel: 01444 882150) or visit www.dressageathickstead.com

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