This time of year is always full of promise, but there's a few reasons why 2020 is shaping up to be an especially exciting year for dressage riders and fans alike...
1. Britain might win an Olympic medal
In case you hadn’t realised, there’s the small matter of the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching! Britain’s top combinations are getting their competition campaigns underway, all hoping to be chosen as members of the team of three that will travel to Japan in July, along with one travelling reserve. And there’s no shortage of talent at the top — with Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester and Gareth Hughes leading the charge, you can be sure that whichever riders end up representing us in Tokyo, they’ll be in with a very good chance of a team medal.
2. There will be some exciting format changes
If the Olympics weren’t exciting enough, this year’s Games are set to produce even more drama, with a new competition format. The grand prix special will now determine the team medals, with the grand prix test serving as a qualifier for the individual competition – the freestyle – and to decide the running order for the special.
3. The National Dressage Championships have had a revamp
Back at home, the British Dressage national championships will take place at the beautiful Somerford Park, Cheshire, this September, with three international arenas, extra capacity across the levels and several new classes, including a prelim gold championship, prix st georges and inter I silver championships and a prix st georges freestyle.
4. There’s plenty of new and returning talent to watch out for
One of the most exciting young British riders of the moment, Lottie Fry, will be campaigning hard for Tokyo selection, not just with her 2019 European Championship ride Dark Legend, but the Lord Leatherdale stallion Everdale, with whom she wowed crowds and judges alike at Olympia in December. At the other end of the spectrum, experienced combination Spencer Wilton and Super Nova II are also back in action and aiming for a team place, having not competed since helping Britain win team bronze at the World Equestrian Games in 2018.
5. The Area Festival series has had a makeover
The ever-popular Area Festivals will now run across two seasons, culminating in the winter championships at Hartpury in April and the brand new summer championships, to be held at Arena UK in September.
6. Britain’s para dressage squad are looking stronger than ever
There have been several new faces on British para teams in recent years, such last year’s gold medallists Georgia Wilson and team silver medallist Mari Durward-Akhurst. But competition for a team place at the Paralympics is especially strong this year, with multi-medallists like Natasha Baker and Sophie Christiansen boasting top-class new rides. Britain hasn’t won team gold at a para championship since 2017, but there’s everything to suggest they could be back on top in Tokyo.
7. Freestyle to music fans have a new championship to aim for
The summer Area Festival series now includes freestyle classes, so if you and your horse love nothing more than to strut your stuff to music, this is a great opportunity. The Area Festival Summer Music Championship will be incorporated in to the Area Festival Summer Championships in September. Check out this week’s dressage special issue of H&H for more on creating a winning freestyle.
8. Britain’s queen of dressage has another horse at the top level
Having already proved herself to be far from a one-horse wonder following Valegro’s retirement, Charlotte Dujardin can now add the nine-year-old Gio — aka Pumpkin — her grand prix string alongside Mount St John Freestyle. The diminutive Apache son made his grand prix debut with nearly 80% in January, and is set to compete at his first international competition in March, at ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.
9. Middle tour combinations will be well catered for
If you and your horse have progressed beyond small tour but aren’t quite ready to make the leap up to grand prix, it can often feel as though you’re somewhat stuck in no-mans land. Not this year though — BD has launched a new Middle Tour Championship, to run at the Keysoe High Profile show in December with inter II, inter B and inter A/B freestyle classes for gold and silver competitors.
Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s dressage special issue, on sale now
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