There is only one thing more divisive than Brexit in the dressage community and that is Dry January. Friendships have been threatened as riders fall into two camps: the “give ups” and the “still drinking”. It’s great to see all the support, though — or in my case, to watch others support each other.
The new year is always a time of change and there are many new proposals in the world of international dressage. The Olympic format will see considerable differences from 2016 and while the details are still to be confirmed, it seems that the team will be three riders with no drop score. The grand prix will be ridden as the qualifier, and the special as the team final. There are also new proposals for judging, which are being widely debated.
Transparency and welfare need to be at the forefront for dressage to be more widely understood by the general public, and we need to develop their interest and try to bring dressage to the mainstream media. If we don’t at least trial some new concepts, we could risk our Olympic status. Flexibility is the key to survival and to be adverse to change could prove short-sighted.
Eventing went through a huge change when the roads and tracks were dropped. They were — and, by some, still are — considered a key part of the sport, but the best riders rolled with the punches, the cream rose back to the top and they carried on where others were left behind, nostalgic for the “old days”. More recently, the Event Rider Masters — a totally different format with a new concept and more interaction — has been a huge success.
The Addington High Profile show excelled with its brand new team. I am a huge fan of this venue, and the new surfaces rode very well. It’s great to see investment in show centres in these turbulent economic times.
I went to coach some riders new to the grand prix and many combinations came forward. Olympic riders won the major classes, with Emile Faurie and Vicki Thompson-Winfield giving masterclasses of test riding in the grand prix, and Charlotte Dujardin being inspirational in the small tour.
I noticed some of our talented younger riders — Jezz Palmer, Lucy Pye and Dannie Morgan — watching many tests intently. Osmosis is such an important training tool, and these young professionals made the most of it at Addington. We need this at the High Profile shows, as the best riders will raise the standard of the chasing group and make it a more exciting competition.
We have exciting times at home, too, as we embark on the next part of our expansion project at Elite Dressage. We have horse walkers, lunge pens, new barns and arenas going in, supported by LEADER funding from the EU.
With 26 embryo transfer foals due this year from our sport mares as part of our ongoing breeding programme, we are looking forward to our riders taking our young mares forward into sport. The buzz created by British riders’ success on British-bred horses needs to be converted into helping expand the UK market.
We have talented horses and the riders across the UK, so I hope 2019 can be a year of pulling together to make it happen.
Ref Horse & Hound; 24 January 2019