Enjoying dressage and riding reiners at the World Equestrian Games

  • Things are seriously hotting up in the dressage at WEG following the elimination of top Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen. British judge Stephen Clarke had to send the pair out after blood was seen in the horse’s mouth. He probably bit his tongue, or lip, but the rules are there to protect the horses and the sport’s image, so out she went.

    Our British dressage riders are doing such an amazing job (am I sounding yank enough yet?) and it’s more relaxing and enjoyable to watch them than it was four years ago. I spent so much time when I started as dressage editor at H&H asking then selector David Trott why we weren’t doing better as we battled for sixth. Now we’re expected to get medals and (the royal) we actually deliver.

    In other news, my new found obsession with all things America, Western and reining continues… Last night I trotted down to the John Deere media event (they sponsor and provide all the ground maintenance equipment for the games), not being one to miss out on a networking opportunity/free beer. They were after a volunteer to ride one of the national association’s American quarter horses in a demo. With my colleague Pippa Roome heckling at me not to fall off as she didn’t fancy covering the rest of the games solo, down I merrily went.

    I got off to an unpromising start… Us dressage riders (I use this title Very loosely) use mounting blocks, and getting on in rather snug jeans from the ground was an embarrassing moment waiting to happen. Yes, predictably, the small rip in an unnoticeable area become a somewhat larger one as I ungainly got my leg over. No matter, nobody is going to notice that till I get off, I thought, and up here I have plenty more opportunity to make a muppet of myself.

    Casey, the lovely instructor cowboy, asked me which hand I usually held my reins in. “Well, both,” I said. “Which, do you prefer,” he asked. Then it dawned on me nobody had told him I’d never ridden in western tack before… No matter, this incredible horse covered for me completely and kept up the bluff throughout. We span (look up reining spins on youtube, very very cool), backed-up and even managed sliding stops! Like this….

    Breezer was so damn responsive. Take your reins left and he whipped round, sit and say whoa and you get the slide, put your heels down and you hit reverse, at speed! He might as well have had a gear stick.

    I want one. I don’t think my lovely Irish thoroughbred is going to fancy this job…my trainer Gary Holt has been known to risk life and limb standing in the middle of the arena with us cantering straight at him just to encourage Skips to halt. Sometimes we manage walk and don’t hit him too hard…

    But I can’t possibly afford me a quarter horse. Can I just stay here and shack up with a cowboy, please?

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