I’ve just returned from coaching at the young rider European Championships in Fontainebleau, and was proud of my pupil Anna Jesty’s 70% score in the team test.
The show had a real championship feel with several disciplines there at once and the team spirit was excellent. The British dressage team coach, Paul Fielder, was superb, giving the riders confidence to ride for big marks, and several of them went over 70%.
Britain should work hard to keep Paul. The cohesive team atmosphere bodes well for the future, and hopefully there will be more training opportunities available over the winter for the combinations going forward next year.
The international youth events can now span a 13-year period, with FEI children’s classes starting from age 12, on ponies, and finishing at 25. They should be a fantastic platform to develop future senior team members, but we need more riders coming through who can achieve a competitive standard in championships.
The step from ponies to horses is a big challenge and I wonder if some riders “lose” a couple of years while they try to adapt to a horse at the age of 16 with only two years left in juniors. The relatively new FEI concept known as children on horses, for 12- to 14-year-olds who ride at elementary level, could help bridge this gap.
Lily Payne represented us well with a strong performance in children on horses at the Europeans, but Britain could have a whole team if enough people came forward. From a riding perspective, it’s a great pathway as it helps riders to be in good balance on a horse early enough to give us more high-scoring junior combinations.
Having recently moved to Devon, I intend to do some local talent spotting and round up some more 12- to 14-year-olds — it’s an opportunity that’s definitely being missed.
Clear rounds win
The horses in Fontainebleau were of a different type to former years, with many looking as though they would to go on to under-25 grand prix. There were fewer huge movers and more nice types with three good gaits. Consistency and flow were what won medals — “clear rounds” are essential to stay in the medal zone.
The good news for parents is that the right horse could see the rider from children-on-horses to under-25s, which could make the sport more accessible, and horses are more affordable at this early stage.
While a good schoolmaster is always invaluable, partnerships could be longer-established and money could perhaps be invested in the development of potential combinations over a period of years, rather than last-minute panic purchasing to try to buy a team horse.
Backing young professionals
I was also impressed that our young rider team was entirely made up of young professionals who had produced their horses from scratch. I’m pleased to be hosting a leg of the British Equestrian Federation young professionals award this year, which aims to help young professionals learn how to run equestrian businesses.
For those riders who are not from great wealth, it’s not enough just to be able to ride well. Good business and stable management are the keys that will give the freedom both financially and mentally to ride at your best.
Ref Horse & Hound; 9 August 2018