Some riders’ choice of music has come in for criticism at recent freestyle competitions. “Music should not be invasive, it should enhance” was one comment on the many melodious shortcomings.

With musical qualifications myself — yes, I was one exam away from teaching the subject and have also played the piano at festivals — I think I can vouch for what’s OK and what’s not. However, much as I try to move with the times, Lady Gaga just doesn’t do it for me. And neither will her ilk appeal to international judges, who tend to be older.

When I dig out my old tapes, although they still sound reasonably good, they illustrate how time has moved on. A more modern approach is necessary, with inventive, bold choreography showing the partnership’s highlights in the arena’s best viewing places. Equally, one’s not-so-good bits need to be harder to see. Subtle disguise is achievable at all but the top grand prix music competitions when having judges all around the arena removes any hiding places.

I’m pleased to see that British Dressage is to run a day on how to judge dressage to music. More knowledge is needed as freestyle gains ground at all levels. I still remember the time we forgot our music and used the same tape for three horses with different choreography. The judge hated the music the first time, quite liked it the second, and loved it the third time, even having it as the winner.

Back to basics

Guest editor Geoff Billington (H&H, 31 March) asked what happened to horsemanship. Oh, I wish I knew…

Doing a supermarket shop the other day, I marvelled that I need never cook again. Every dish I’ve ever made is there, packaged and ready to eat.

Well, no, they’re not for me actually, as I love to cook with fresh food. And do those ready meals really do us as much good as “proper food”? I think not…

This prompted a review of our horses’ diets. By keeping it simple and cutting out most of the junk we’ve been variously advised to feed, they’re looking and feeling great. Yes, it’s so refreshing to have a clear-out and strip things back to basics. And as for Geoff being looked at as if he was mad for wanting to ride bareback — well, they’d better lock me up too.

‘You’re fired’

We had a busy week here at Talland filming a new reality show for Horse & Country TV. A group of riders attended a training camp with a view to being chosen to join the channel’s All Star Academy.

Interestingly, they weren’t well-known competitors but had enough get-up-and-go to put themselves forward as faces of the equestrian world.

Apparently I’m the “Alan Sugar” character, so producer Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes tells me. We put the hopefuls through their paces. This was quite an eye-opener and included far more than riding.

It’s vital that the horse world gains publicity from the bottom to the top. It’s the compelling stories about people and horses that will, ultimately, help keep our sport in the public eye and at the Olympics. Personalities are what we need, not boring lists of results.

Oh, and I got a scoop while filming too. The candidates had the chance to interview Carl Hester, one of the better questions being whether he ever rode without stirrups. “Yes, of course, a couple of days a week”, was his gem of a reply. Geoff Billington: be impressed!

Team GBR boost

Well done Fiona Bigwood! Your test in Saumur was utterly beautiful and many a top trainer from other countries said complimentary things. Just the news Britain needs as we head towards Rio.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 19 May 2016