This year’s Badminton dressage hit real high notes. Overall, the judging was great. Pammy Hutton and I complained last year about the inconsistent marking on some of the flying changes, but this year there were virtually no errors.
We were lucky enough to have a four-star international pure dressage judge on the ground jury in Christoph Hess. He always impresses with his positive judging and this was mirrored by Sue Baxter and Katrin Eichinger-Kniely, who kept up to his standards.
They were all willing to reward with high marks whenever they could, but it was also refreshing to see that when there was a mistake, low marks followed.
Everyone gets so excited about Michael Jung’s La Biosthetique-Sam FBW, but it was great to see he was correctly marked for a well-trained but not naturally big-moving horse.
While there was sometimes a clear difference in the scores — nearly 9% in the case of Tom Crisp and Coolys Luxury — in general, the marking was consistent.
The only feedback to the judges was the necessity to mark down riders when their rein-backs were not clearly in rhythm, with the legs moving in diagonal pairs. Some got away with this, still receiving fairly good marks.
A good test
The new test is yet another improvement on the one used last year. It’s simple, but checks whether the horse is supple, obedient, on the rider’s aids and can remain relaxed throughout.
The pattern in the trotwork, which sends horses from half-pass one way immediately into an 8m circle on the other rein, challenges riders’ ability to control the shoulders and checks whether the horse remains supple on both sides.
In canter, there are enough flying changes to challenge the horses’ ability and training, but they are positioned in easier places than on the serpentine and after extensions, which is where they appeared in the previous tests. The stretch demonstrates whether the horse is relaxed and on the correct training scales.
A quality horse with superb paces
Oliver Townend scored just shy of 80% to lead and deserved his mark. If he presented Ballaghmor Class in a slightly more uphill, more free frame, he would have headed over 80%. He’s a really quality horse, with three superb basic paces — exactly my idea of what a class event horse should look like.
At 62, Mark Todd is going strong, riding amazingly and still supple and elegant on a horse.
It was great to see Ros Canter leading on the first day. She rode an almost foot-perfect test with no mistakes, and the only thing lacking was the self-carriage in a better contact. This would perhaps have kept her in the lead.
Apart from obviously the top three, I like Paul Tapner’s Bonza King Of Rouges, and Flora Harris’ Bayano was a beautiful type who had a lovely way of going — I’m a bit surprised he didn’t get better marks.
Tom McEwen impressed with his riding style and cool head and was the only rider to receive 10s.
Ref Horse & Hound; 10 May 2018