Judy Harvey: The dressage nationals urgently need an upgrade *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Challenging weather will be the lasting memory of this year’s National Dressage Championships. Carl Hester described the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, which suffered the effects of Hurricane Florence, as “a bit of rain with a breeze” in comparison.

On Wednesday — arrival day for many — 40mph winds blew roofs off stables, and arena boards were taking off. Stable manager Steve Fazackerly had no alternative but to insist that horses remained on their transport until the worst of the storm had passed, and arena familiarisation was cancelled.

I have been complaining for years about the totally inadequate stabling at the nationals. It floods, the stables are tiny, the base has sharp stones and there is nowhere to keep equipment dry. Locally-based riders sensibly take their horses home each night. Steve and his team do their best, but you cannot expect valuable horses to be put at risk. The weather is not controllable, but we can protect against it.

Raising the bar

Congratulations to Lara Butler and Rubin Al Asad, and the horse’s owners, the Bechtolsheimers, for becoming the overall national champion — it was richly deserved.

It was also brilliant to see the rewards of the investment in breeding made by both the Hawtins and Mount St John studs. Both are producing fabulous world-class horses.

The standard of the sport overall was phenomenal. Some grumble about the “Charlotte monopoly” — get over it. Her riding, work ethic, test execution and stamina are all incredible. Every one of her horses is a happy athlete and the top 13 in the medium gold all had over 70%, as other riders raised their game striving to catch her.

Upgrade needed

Where else can you see the best in the world — plus a masterclass — for the price of an admission ticket? But the championships now urgently need an upgrade. Live scoring must be possible; at Badminton and Burghley, the provisional dressage scores are available before the horse has left the arena, yet those events have no permanent infrastructure. Screens, livestreaming and electronic scoreboards in the retail and VIP areas would really enhance the visitor experience.

All British Dressage members aspire to ride here — it should be a showcase.

Ref Horse & Hound; 27 September 2018