At last, I’ve figured it out: dressage riders don’t really have those long stirrup leathers to help them give imperceptible aids and enjoy optimal control. It’s because the horses are so damned big.
‘Is this normal?’ I asked H&H dressage editor Sarah Jenkins as yet another 17.3hh whopper trotted by. You don’t really appreciate the size of the horses when you watch dressage on TV (the few times you find dressage on TV). You don’t really get it when you are up in a grandstand as I was at Windsor for the Dressage Europeans.
But half the fun of the Nationals for me is being able to get close to the horses, by the warm up ring and elsewhere. And boy have dressage horses got big. Big horse equals lots of power and big movement I suppose, at least in the mind of the breeders. But does it make these horses harder to remarket should they ever want a life after dressage?
I’ve noticed for years in the dressage pictures we print in Horse & Hound how many Brits across the levels ride so beautifully now. Many have managed to take themselves off overseas to train — and, as Windsor proved, there’s no ‘them and us’ syndrome any more. British dressage is on the up.
It’s fascinating — as the humblest sort of horse trials rider imaginable, with a diabolical record in dressage — to watch the riders here preparing their horses. They’re wrapped up like Dresden china — it must be an eternity before they can actually get on — and no one rides down the fence lines. They’ve all been drilled: don’t give the horse a prop; pick your own line and keep straight!
Laura Bechtolsheimer may be on holiday (Well, I suppose she deserves it) but there are no shortage of names at the Dressage Deluxe National Dressage Championships this week; it’s the chance of the year to see in the flesh all those hard working riders whose names litter our nationwide dressage reports, and to try to spot the next stars of the international circuit.