1. The National Dressage Championships’ new venue being a bit of a hit
The majority who attended are raving about the National Dressage Championships’s new home at Somerford Park, including Horse & Hound’s own columnist Anna Ross. You’d hope so – the complaints about the show’s former venue, Stoneleigh Park, went on every year – though I sympathised when many centred around the uncontrollable British weather, the timing of the show being after the year’s major international championship, and the fact our championship team riders do not attend on their top horses. These three things are all still factors, but the sun shone at Somerford, and people were happy with the layout, and clearly the organisers have done a good job of keeping riders and spectators happy. British Dressage chief executive Jason Brautigam said: “Considering we only really had the green light to go ahead in mid-June, when it would usually take at least nine months of planning, the Show Direct team did an incredible job to pull it all together in the circumstances. Any relocation is always challenging, but to go from two to three arenas and increase from 400 to over 700 combinations – all against the backdrop of COVID and Brexit – was no mean feat!” The much missed live stream is even under discussion for next year, with realisation that the cost has to be covered somehow. Emile Faurie was a popular winner of the grand prix freestyle, taking the overall title for the third time – but the first in more than two decades. Congratulations Emile.
2. Blenheim Horse Trials being a big hit, too
Yes, Blenheim Horse Trials under new management by The Jockey Club was in general such a big hit that the main complaint, beyond a few teething issues, was about the queues to get in. We have the same around Burghley and Badminton, but are perhaps less used to having to queue for so long to get into a four-star. Some felt the CCI4*-L cross-country was a little too soft to really test horses aiming to step up to five-star and with Badminton Horse Trials in mind for May – there were 18 clears inside the time. But some 20,000 spectators were treated to a fabulous field of past and future megastars in a perfect setting. For those with young children, Hey Duggee even turned up as part of a designated family area, which is a winning way to get whole families to attend and enjoy horse trials in future.
3. Making our roads safer for horses and riders
There has been a great deal of positive reaction to the Pass Wide & Slow rides that took place on Sunday (19 September). In total 180 rides went ahead, some of which were very well attended – one ride had 76 riders. Some rides had MPs present, others mounted police, and one was featured on BBC East Midlands news. It is fantastic for the community to be getting these important messages across to the non-equestrian public, influencing how drivers approach riders on the road and making hacking safer for all who need to use the roads. Meanwhile a petition calling for a feasibility study on average-speed cameras to prevent pony deaths in the New Forest has gathered 50,000 signature in 10 days.
4. Inaugural in-hand show’s success – and a notable retirement
Never mind Blenheim and the National Dressage Champs, the showing community were waxing lyrical about the inaugural Great British In-hand Show held by the National Pony Society (NPS) at Kelsall Hill EC over the weekend (18-19 September), where Lynn Wilson’s Welsh section B stallion Paddock Rio took supreme and promptly retired from the show ring.
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