Nick Burton: We have to judge what we see *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Overall, the standard was quite varied in the dressage at Burghley. We had some really super tests that were bravely and correctly ridden, with riders often demonstrating a clear difference within the paces. Even if they made a mistake, many were able to pick up the marks quickly again.

The audience could see the judge’s mark for each individual movement on the scoreboard, and also that sometimes marks varied from judge to judge, depending on our different vantage points. This is quite normal. We are not aiming to give the same marks for each exercise or we might as well all sit together and decide!

For example, the lateral work looks very different from the side and front views. Judging from C, I could assess straightness of the entry, the transitions and the halts on the centre line, but not necessarily how square the halt was, which the judge sitting at E could see well. It’s important we judge what we can see, in accordance with the scales of training.

Only a few riders earned high marks in the canter exercise of stretching on a circle. This movement requires a lot of relaxation — we want to see horses lowering and stretching forward to the contact, rather than loose reins or only an indication of stretching.

An equal chance

The Burghley arena is similar to an international dressage arena in terms of the spectators, supporters and cameras. Some horses lift in the atmosphere, but others coped less well.

As we had 67 starters this year, we gave horses eight minutes between tests — which can be done in seven-minute intervals — allowing each rider a little more time to ride round the arena before the bell rang at their start time. We hoped this allowed horses to settle.

We wanted to give everyone an equal opportunity to do their best.

The dressage stars

Pippa Funnell’s leader MGH Grafton Street showed a really fluent, balanced test, with good relaxation in the walk and clear range in the paces. Oliver Townend’s ride Ballaghmor Class demonstrates such scope and power. If he hadn’t rested a hind leg in the halt before the rein back, he may have got a couple of points closer to Pippa.

Izzy Taylor’s Springpower has a lot of ability, but there were some moments of tension. With more maturity they could easily be a winning combination at top level in this phase.

There were three US riders in the top 10. Hannah Sue Burnett’s Harbour Pilot showed particularly good canter work and a lovely, elastic contact. Lauren Kieffer produced a solid performance from Vermiculus and a really correct way going.

Deniro Z and Liz Halliday-Sharp went very well and would have been much higher up the order but for problems executing the flying changes.

Jonelle Price rode a very tactful test on the super-talented Faerie Dianimo — the mare was spectacular in some movements and had tension in others. Relaxation will be the key to high marks throughout.

Further down the scores, I particularly liked the quality of Zara Tindall’s Class Affair. He just needs a little more confidence and experience to iron out their couple of mistakes. Will Furlong’s Collien P 2 is also a super mover, and with further development and no mistakes in the flying changes will no doubt be able to climb the leaderboard.

Ref Horse & Hound; 12 September 2019