Having spent two days sitting next to dressage rider and trainer Anna Ross Davies (pictured) as she critiques every test at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials for our H&H Live service, I have learnt the following things:
1. The importance of a clear round
Not all of the horses in the top 20 are amazing movers, but in certain cases their riders produced ‘clear round’ performances that looked smooth and polished and gave the judges no opportunities to take marks away. For an excellent example, go over to Burghley TV and watch William Fox-Pitt’s test on Neuf Des Coeurs to see a test ridden in excellent balance within the horse’s comfort zone. Going for the ‘wow’ factor can backfire and make you lose more marks than you gain.
2. Accuracy is vital
Whether your horse is a big-moving superstar or a more modest mount, throwing away marks by riding inaccurate sizes circles and missing markers can be the difference between winning and losing. Very few riders had perfected the size of their 8m circles; many rode their extended trot from H to P in the long arena, rather than H to F; and a number halted at the incorrect marker on the final centre line. If you struggle with the size or accuracy of your movements, then mark them out at home, get practising and grab those all important extra marks.
3. Think about your appearance
It doesn’t matter how great your horse feels, it’s about how it looks to the judges that counts. As Anna repeatedly pointed out, the overall appearance of riders that had well-fitting coats was massively enhanced. For us lesser mortals who are unlikely to ever wear tails, this also applies to show jackets so if your jacket is less than a perfect fit, get down to your local tailors and get it adjusted and see if your scores improve. Anna assures me they will…
For the nearly 7,000 eventing fans from around the world who joined us over the past two days on Horse & Hound Live, I hope you have enjoyed the service. And for those who missed it, you can replay the commentary now at www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley2011live/
We hope you will be able to join us for the cross-country tomorrow. It promises to be an exciting day.