Being grounded with a broken collarbone (I’m getting good at one-armed strimming!) has given me plenty of time to watch all the live streaming now available.
This development, in which the Event Rider Masters (ERM) plays a big part, has made it easier for riders to watch others and, in consequence, the standard of cross-country riding at the top level is constantly improving.
The talking point earlier this season was the removal of the dressage co-efficient, which has had the effect of making scores perhaps too close — you’ve got to pull off something exceptional to establish a lead of significance, as Julia Krajewski did at Bramham and Wiesbaden — but I do think it’s a good idea in principle. It encourages riders to think harder about training and makes the cross-country more important.
When I started out in the late 1970s, if you went flat out, you’d probably win a rosette. Some people worry that closer dressage scoring encourages riders to go too fast, but everyone now knows that it’s cross-country speed that causes injury to horses and the style of those who are winning at top level shows that it’s good judgement that wins the day.
The Chatsworth ERM was a great example; it built up thrillingly and final rider Piggy French rode so beautifully, yet with such efficiency and calmness that she was fastest of all. At Arville, the winner, Chris Burton, was so smooth and forward that he made it look effortless, as he did at Barbury.
Jonelle Price’s similarly stylish riding has finally brought her the four-star success she deserves and I’ve been enjoying watching Ros Canter and Tom McEwen, who are so quiet but effective in the saddle.
It was so wondeful to see Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson, who have both been injured, back on track at Barbury, as was Tom Carlile with the beautiful Upsilon. It’s hard to be consistent with just one horse and I was impressed with Tom’s modesty in blaming himself for previous errors.
Laura Collett gives me as much pleasure as any — she’s riding with such confidence and her great run must be rewarding for her mentor, Yogi Breisner, who earmarked her as a talent from the start. Laura has kept her chin up through hard times and is now enjoying her super string of horses.
Most poignant of all at Barbury was the green fence in honour of Jonty Evans; he may be far away in hospital in Ireland, but he is never far from our thoughts.
Life at home is suddenly quiet, with my son Freddie abroad on his gap year and Emily having moved to north Wales. Obviously I miss her, but the world’s a far smaller place now thanks to modern communications. It was lovely that she marked moving on by winning the coveted under-25s at Bramham and I’m pleased that she is enjoying training with Ferdi Eilberg, an inspiration in my career.
I have my fingers crossed for the junior and young rider squads in Fontainebleau this weekend. The most recent graduates from the system do seem to be bridging the gap with senior competition better. This must be partly thanks to the World Class system, but is perhaps also because there is more awareness that there’s a lot of hard work and a competitive world out there.
Ref Horse & Hound; 12 July 2018