‘I felt like I was on Strictly!’ Riders react to new Olympia grand prix

  • The new short-format grand prix was trialled at Olympia Horse Show last night (17 December), to much discussion from riders, judges and spectators alike.

    The new test, which at five minutes long is 45 seconds shorter than the usual grand prix, featured much shorter half-passes, just one extended trot, a reduced walk tour and no rein-back. Riders performed a half circle off the first centre line, straight after the first halt at D, and only two piaffes were required.

    The changes have been introduced as part of a whole package to widen the audience appeal of the grand prix night, and other new aspects included the riders dismounting in the arena directly after finishing the test, to be interviewed briefly about their performance, and then to watch their scores appear in dramatic fashion on the big screen.

    “I felt like I was on Strictly Come Dancing!” said Charlotte Dujardin, who rode Hawtins Delicato to finish a close second behind the Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Dream Boy NOP.

    “It is quite something to get off straight away when you’re all sweaty and have a camera in you face and answer questions, but we have to get used to that.

    “In the test itself everything comes up very quckly, and the start of it especially is very fast; it wasn’t easy to get going and flowing. It feels quite bitty, like the half-pass, pirouette, change sequence and then coming straight out of the second one of those into the two-time changes. There’s no time in between to set up and prepare the next movement.”

    Hayley Watson-Greaves, who finished fourth with Rubins Nite, agreed that the test felt a little short and bitty, but was a fan of the concept as a whole.

    “The test doesn’t flow as well as the old grand prix — you just get into doing a movement, and then you have to change and do something else,” she sad. “But it’s a brilliant overall concept, and it was a lot of fun to have the audience participation.”

    Lara Butler, sixth with Rubin Al Asad, added: “It wasn’t too bad — it just feels very short and I felt I didn’t get the chance to show off my horse to his full potential. But it is still hard, in its own way as you really can’t make a mistake.

    Both riders felt the interviews and scoring did not affect their ability to cool their horses down sufficiently, which had been a concern for some riders prior to the test.

    For Carl Hester, the new grand prix package is the way forward.

    Continues below…

    Hans Peter Minderhoud pips Charlotte Dujardin to Olympia grand prix victory

    British riders fill four of the top six places in the new-look Olympia grand prix.

    “This is definitely the right way to go from a spectator’s view — they are loving it out there,” he said. “You just don’t normally hear this kind of enthusiasm on grand prix night. The test needs tweaking but there are lots of things that are working.”

    Don’t miss next week’s H&H, out 28 December, for full reports from Olympia.

    What did you think of the dressage at Olympia this year? Write to hhletters@ti-media.com for a chance to see your views in H&H magazine and win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger (please include your name and address; letters may be edited). 

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