The gala nights at the Winter Dressage Championships are always a great success. It was great to see such a large turnout and some up-and-coming professional riders doing well with some new horses. When Nikki Barker’s music didn’t work, the judges did the right thing allowing her to have a second chance — good for her for pulling it off.
As a judge it is really nerve-racking when things like that happen, but they handled that and the other difficult moments well.
Hartpury’s indoor is a great spectator arena, but it is not easy to ride in. I’ve ridden here many times and it is a big atmosphere because all the noise is directed into the centre of the school, so if you have a sensitive horse it is really difficult to keep him relaxed. This is an arena like no other really, and it stands horses and riders in good stead for competitions abroad.
One of the classes I was judging was the inter II Area Festival championship and it was nice to see less experienced competitors taking part at a higher level. There were some nice horses and maybe some competition nerves kicking in for the riders, but I’m very pro that class really taking off. The more it is supported, the higher the standard will become.
A chance to shine
Overall it has been a great show — it is absolutely huge with so many classes giving so many grassroots riders a chance to shine. It is also nice for them to be able to watch some of the higher levels and the more experienced riders.
While not on judging duty, I watched a couple of the prelim and novice championships, including the under-21 bronze, which featured a huge entry and a whole variety of gorgeous horses and ponies. Likewise, in the novice silver music there were some great riders as young as 11 and 12 years old competing. This is great for our sport.
Ref Horse & Hound; 11 April 2019