Anna Ross: A golden dilemma *H&H VIP*

  • We have just had our first regional championships under the new competition structure of gold, silver and bronze. This has resulted in some very small gold sections with a larger proportion going to championships compared to silver, which have large sections with a small proportion going to the championships at Hartpury in April.

    I feel uncomfortable with people competing at both small tour and in the elementary silver section. Surely if you can ride multiple flying changes and canter pirouettes you could be in the gold section at elementary. How about the silver section being kept for people who have not competed more than two levels above?

    Avoiding polarisation

    Team GB is going to have to dig deep this year to stay in the medal zone. It’s a blow to the senior team to lose two fantastic horses in Orthilia (sold) and Valegro (retired) in one season.

    I rode at the 2007 European Championships when the Dutch team won and it was the first time that the German stranglehold on gold medals was broken. It was such an exciting breakthrough, only 10 years ago, and much celebrated. A fantastic decade of sport has followed, with medals bouncing around between the Dutch, the Germans and us Brits.

    At the moment the Germans have more depth in their breeding programme, but the British and Dutch are also breeding great horses. We have some stars to come for sure, but the reality is that for future medals we need at least three combinations that can score around 78%-80% at grand prix. We have been reliant on our superstar Valegro, who has provided the icing on a very good cake for our team’s medal-winning performances.

    We have to look at ourselves and our horses and not become too polarised on “the island”. Competing abroad is good, and keeps the mind open. We can all think we have a medal winner in the indoor school at home.

    We need to compare it with top horses both here in the UK and abroad and see what the reality truly is.

    Bringing international judges to the UK is also a great idea and why shows such as Hickstead CDI are so important. I am a proud member of the Hickstead 1000 club [Carl Hester comment, 16 February]; a great initiative that supports the show and provides a chance to ride there for all its members.

    Using our own international judges is also a great training tool and I’d encourage any aspiring international competitor to get in touch with our judges and go and ride a test in front of them for some tips.

    What’s stopping us?

    Would more continuity between the teams that manage our pony, juniors and young riders help I wonder? Is it lack of funding, horse power or competitive opportunity that hold our young riders below the medal radar? From what I see, riding talent is in abundance.

    Young riders and juniors have to gain 70% to go abroad, but seniors 3% less at 67%, which seems an anomaly. I’m all for raising standards in the “yoof of today” but wonder if more international opportunities would raise the standard?

    There’s no substitute for experience even if it’s painful at the start. Right now the mainland European young riders are more successful than Team GB and osmosis should not be underestimated as a training tool. I’m in Spain to compete at the moment, parked next to one of Germany’s most famous riders and three under-25s have come with me, to ride in the show. Win or lose, they will learn an awful lot.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 9 March 2017