Laura Tomlinson: British dressage riders have to become braver *H&H VIP*

Opinion

What an incredibly exciting championship this was. Having been part of the gold medal-winning team in Rotterdam eight years ago, watching these Europeans brought back memories for me. The marks have certainly gone up exponentially since then, with one personal best being ridden after another. And on the whole, despite the marks being high, I thought they were generally correct in relation to each other, and with riders finishing in the right placing.

The one exception to this for me was Jessy von Bredow-Werndl on the last day. She had a foot-perfect freestyle with immaculate harmony and a lovely open frame. Bronze was harsh as the two German riders above her showed some bigger highlights, but neither had faultless tests in the freestyle.

Germany’s Cosmo was disappointing and Sönke Rothenberger will have to put his foot on the gas if he wants to get into his country’s top three for next year’s Olympic team. Isabell’s grand prix and special were two of the best tests I have ever seen. Isabell was in a league of her own with Bella Rose doing her best in every movement, and with a lighter frame than recently.

Tough times

Britain’s Gareth Hughes did a great job to ride into the top 10 and showed some lovely work with his canter pirouettes being some of the best in the championship, but his walk was expensive in his final test. Charlotte Fry did superbly in her senior championship debut, and there is more to come from her I’m sure. Carl Hester’s Hawtins Delicato had been on form despite some minor mistakes in the first two tests, but sadly couldn’t cope with the atmosphere in the freestyle.

Charlotte Dujardin was the talk of the grand prix having been eliminated. Thank goodness that wasn’t at an Olympics with only three in a team but still, it cost the Brits their medal. I can only imagine how tough that must have been, given that she had ridden full throttle into second place despite some mistakes.

With such a high-profile incident, debate is inevitable, but what a shame when people use social media to become so aggressive towards one another.

Go for the maximum

All the Germans who filled the top three in the freestyle said, independently of each other, that the success of their team-mates pushes them to be better and to take more risks. In Britain, we do not have that mentality in quite the same way, as our top riders are not competing at the biggest shows.

One area in which you can see the difference is in the extensions our riders perform compared with those of the top European riders. They go for the maximum, but often our riders, Charlotte Dujardin aside, ride for safe and harmonious. That is not enough anymore.

The difference between the very top few and the competitive next group is the power they can achieve to score 10s as opposed to 8.5s, but without losing relaxation and without creating mistakes.

In Britain we too have top horses, but they need to get comfortable in these atmospheres and being ridden at full throttle. There is all to play for next year but, my gosh, we need to be self-critical and put the hammer down. Let’s compete!

Ref Horse & Hound; 29 August 2019