Carl Hester: Important steps and draconian measures *H&H VIP*

Opinion

The new year kicked off with the High Profile show at Addington EC. The centre is under new management and Chris Parker and his team had new surfaces in and a competition running in just two weeks.

The feedback has been hugely positive, and it will be very exciting to have this centre back as a mainstay of the competition circuit. In its heyday, Addington Manor hosted national and international shows and I’m sure Lady Inchcape, at the  helm then, will be delighted to see it returned to its former glory. I gather an award-winning pie chef has taken over the canteen, too, which is a very welcome addition.

Eliminated for a rug

For my 2019 grand prix debut, I went to the smaller local Hartpury show to start Ekitof in his career at top level. I was thrilled to get his first grand prix out of the way, but it’s still my passion after all these years to get a horse to that level. Of course, we need to remember that getting there is only part of the journey — it takes years to make it better.

Entering the warm-up, I was reminded that a full rug is now not acceptable while warming-up; the new rule in place this year states that only rugs designed for riding can be worn. I was dismayed to hear of a competitor having been eliminated for having a normal rug on in a collecting ring. For goodness sake, it’s only January and a polite reminder surely should be all it takes?

I don’t know the competitor involved but if it was an amateur who’d taken the day off work, what a sad end to her day and more than a bit draconian. We need to remember that competing and looking after horses for many is done on a budget. A little January cheer would not have gone amiss.

Now that British Dressage (BD) has sorted out the gold, silver and bronze categories, let’s be prepared to give this a year to consolidate before any more changes are introduced.

With more opportunities for silver and bronze riders than ever before, it’s good to know there are sponsors for all, which is a testament to our sport. Look at Petplan’s 20-year sponsorship of the Area Festivals — and haven’t they grown? To the brands who are loyal sponsors, we thank you all.

‘Do we stay, or go?’

The good news for this year’s national championships is that BD have taken measures to prevent the awful stable flooding that has marred the event in previous years.

A major problem, however, is that with the HS2 railway in the pipeline, it is difficult for the venue to make any major investment. It’s our last year under the contract BD has with Stoneleigh, so the question for the future is, do we stay or do we go? Stoneleigh has promised investment, but nothing seems to be happening at present. If anyone’s reminded of Brexit at this point, do not even go there!

This year’s top international diary date is the European Championships in Rotterdam in August. Again, timings mean that our team horses, whoever they may be, won’t be in action at the nationals, but with the shortlist due to be drawn up after Hartpury CDI in July, that will be the chance to see those combinations in action. All together, let’s hope and work for a great year for our sport.

Ref Horse & Hound; 31 January 2019

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