Spotting young dressage talent

  • The future for British dressage is looking up after the Talent Spotting Finals end in a joint win in the young riders section for the first time

    The finals of the British Dressage Talent Spotting scheme brought together pony riders, juniors and young riders with a new format to assess talent and depth of knowledge at Addington Manor,Bucks.

    The judges were Pammy Hutton and Stephan Kiesewetter, chief training conductor and deputy director of the German Riding School at Warendorf. Jane Kidd wrote a special dressage test specifically for talent spotting and chief pony selector Maureen Newall tested the riders’ knowledge of riding theory.

    The final ride-off in each section was planned to be between two riders, but the standard at the top of the junior and young rider groups was so close that an exception was made and three junior and four senior riders went forward to eachride-off.

    The judges still could not separate the first two young riders, Rachel Black and Stephen Read, resulting in the first ever joint win.

    Twenty-year-old Rachel is based in Cheshire with international judge and trainer Stephen Clarke on the British Dressage apprenticeship scheme. She currently rides three of Stephen’s horses and two of her own and is studying for her BHS stage IV exam.

    Stephen Read from Scotland, is now based with Hans and Marina Rietveld in Gloucestershire. He competes several of their home-bred horses, winning the dressage section of the young horse evaluation series at HOYS. He commutes to Oxford, where he is studying law.

    Pammy Hutton said: “Both riders had different strengths and weaknesses, and during the assessment procedure it was impossible to separate them.”

    Junior and pony riders

    Eighteen-year-old Richard Black, who has been based with Patsy Bartram as a working pupil for the past 18 months, won the junior section. He went to Patsy to learn about stud work but it soon became apparent that he was a talented rider.

    The pony finals proved very competitive. The highest score over the two days went to Samantha Harrison, at 12 the youngest finalist. Samantha scored highest in all sections and particularly impressed Pammy Hutton with her riding of the stallion Broomford Dancer on the second day.

    An integral part of the assessment was help given by top trainers Jennie Loriston-Clarke, Paul Fielder and Hannah Moody during the working-in period. The judges were able to assess the riders’ ability to absorb, understand and carry out instructions.

    Stephan said: “The aim was to assess not only their all-round horsemanship but their potential to progress. Talent on its own is not enough to succeed. They must have a desire to work hard and to practice everyday with consistency.”

    During the two days, Stephan was so impressed by the ability and potential of the top riders that he contacted the director at Warendorf, who agreed that two weeks’ training at the riding academy next summer alongside German young rider teams should be offered as an additional prize.

    At the prize-giving ceremony, junior winner Richard Black was awarded this training, and the British Dressage Supporters Club offered to pay the air fares.

    What is talent spotting?

  • Aim: to give talented, young riders (between 12 and 21) without finances training opportunities. There are 14 qualifying rounds held throughout the British Isles.
  • How to qualify:There are three categories: pony, junior and young rider. The best rider from each section at the qualifying rounds goes forward to the finals, which are held overtwo days.

  • Day 1: Perform the talent spotting rider test on their own horses, followed by a theory discussion.
  • Day 2: Pony and juniors swap horses. The young riders ride a variety of horses from novice to advanced.

  • Ride off: Final ride-off between the top two riders in each section. Pony and juniors swap horses. Young riders ride advanced horses.
  • Read the full report in this week’s Horse & Hound (7 November), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to yourdoor every week.

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