Carl Hester: Fitness is the key to longevity *H&H VIP*

Opinion

When you have a top horse who has done as much as Nip Tuck, it is always a difficult decision as to when they should either retire, step down a level or change their lives in general.

After finishing fourth with “Barney” at the European Championships in 2017, with the current quality at the top, we were more than happy to revise plans for a horse who’s done as much as he has for his country — winning three silver medals from 2014 to 2017.

As with Valegro, a horse who’s proved himself time and again deserves to take life a bit easier, but taking him to the Keysoe CDI earlier this month showed me how much joy Barney — and his owner — have from competing; he was so excited to be out.

Barney’s post-championship routine includes lots of hacking and polework with his owner Jane de la Mare, as well as visits to the water treadmill. It’s a reminder that horses don’t forget their training; it’s all about fitness, not schooling, to produce longevity in the sport. While Barney remains so happy and willing, he will hopefully continue to do more British internationals this year.

In the current climate, some venues must be struggling to stay afloat, but Simon Bates deserves appreciation for the big investment at Keysoe. With a new gallery, viewing area and, most importantly, good stabling for the March international, which always seems to be wet, I’m sure all competitors would join me in saying thank you. How glad we were to have  these improvements.

A tragic disaster

My heart goes out to the Rothenberger family, with my condolences on the loss of five of their beloved horses in a devastating yard fire last month, and my thoughts for the recovery of the injured people and horses. Semmieke Rothenberger’s tribute to the young mare she lost in the fire was extremely moving.

A fire is surely every yard owner’s worst nightmare and this terrible tragedy serves as a timely reminder to me and others to make sure all fire extinguishers are regularly checked and functioning.

Public buildings must have evacuation plans, so it makes sense to have one for the yard, too. Sadly, it is often only tales of utter disaster such as befell the Rothenbergers that make us look at the “what ifs” on our own doorsteps.

That neighbours and friends have pulled together to support the family in the aftermath is heartening; they face a long journey to rebuild their beautiful place and lives.

Better than keyboard bashing

Paperwork may not be my favourite thing — as my loyal PA Claudine would attest — but the British Dressage (BD) member survey will be top of my “to do” pile at the beginning of April. The survey will be sent to all paid-up members of BD and it’s vital we take this opportunity to respond.

The survey will look at membership as well as competition and championship structures, which are meaty subjects. It will take about 25 minutes and, if we all take the time out to complete it, we can shape our sport collectively. So, get a cup of coffee (perhaps save the wine until afterwards) and get to it, as this is a far more positive way to have your say than bashing out a keyboard rant.

Ref Horse & Hound; 28 March 2019