Dressage at Hickstead has had a re-vamp. And very smart it is too. The helicopter that landed outside the champagne tent on Friday evening is still positioned at the entrance — how terribly Formula One.
Founder Dane Rawlins’ aspiration for the show was that it should rival the mega events found on the continent — the Aachens and Den Boschs of the world. Dane’s brother Craig’s Dutch-based events company took over the organisation and the influence is obvious — with even today’s commentator going Dutch.
Opposite the aforementioned Veuve Cliquot marquee is the VIP area, and adjacent is catering for us mere mortals with everything from kroketten (that’s a tasty fried tit-bit), salads for the svelte dressage divas, and burgers for those of us who expect nothing more, nothing less, from our Blighty show fodder.
Tonight, a live band was set to play amidst a free shindig for the dressage cognoscenti and public alike — if I wasn’t so old and boring, I’d have been there with bells on just to support an event that’s trying to make dressage “fun” and accessible. This innovation alone is a big step forward for dressage internationals on home soil. As for the rest, well, people are always going to complain about the loos — they’re portable, how good does that ever get? Besides, there are posh ones if you like, at 50p a go…
Meanwhile, over in the 20 by 60, the standard of dressage has been even more impressive than the amount of Pimms quaffed in the riders’ lounge. There were mumblings today that spectators — and there were many, with tomorrow also a sell-out — were feeling conned having bought tickets on the promise of seeing world number one Moorlands Totilas in action with Edward Gal. Totilas didn’t cross the channel. And if I’d bought tickets to see U2 headline a festival and they didn’t show up, I’d have been disappointed, too. But just as band members fall off stages and damage limbs, it’s equally feasible that horses selected for the World Equestrian Games might change their schedule.
World number two Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival made up for their absence. Lest we forget, Parzival has beaten Totilas on more than one occasion, including at the European championships last year. If it weren’t for Totilas, the greater public would be totally enamored with Parzival. Many actually prefer Parzival’s way of going, and the chestnut powerhouse passaged his heart out this afternoon — proving that he deserves to fill a grandstand just as much as his Dutch teammate.
On the British front, Carl competently proved he has rekindled his partnership with Liebling II with a plus-70% grand prix in the CDI5*, while Maria Eilberg’s Two Sox made up for bombing down the centerline at Aachen by pulling off a faultless test. Richard Davison won the CDI3* grand prix and special, but no, he’s still not available for selection for the World Equestrian Games.
Tomorrow, the selectors will be locked away to talk about who will make the WEG team. When this is done, smoke will seep from the gaps in the tarpaulin, in the style of a new Pope at the Vatican. Horse & Hound should be bringing you the news in next week’s magazine (5 August), unless the selectors really can’t pick by Monday’s press deadline. Laura Bechtolsheimer, Carl Hester, Maria Eilberg, Emile Faurie, Fiona Bigwood — who would make your final four? From an editorial point of view, it would be great to have Emile make his comeback — a team and individual medallist in the past, he is back with a new ride that the judges love.
But we don’t have any favourites at H&H — you decide, then watch this space.
For all the action from this week’s Dressage at Hickstead, don’t miss Horse & Hound 5 August issue.