Anna Ross: Leopard-print tailcoats? [H&H VIP]

  • It’s a busy but exciting time of year, not least with my new H&H column, which I’m thrilled to start.

    I’ve recently returned from competing in Barcelona [report, 2 April] with a new grand prix horse, Die Callas, and have been preparing horses and riders at home for the winter championships and Petplan finals.

    Badminton is looming and I’m now in Brazil, where Mark Todd and I have been prepping the eventing team for the Pan-American Games. Those preparations have so far included removing a fallen tree from the arena following a tropical rainstorm. All in a day’s training.

    It’s an interesting time for dressage as the sport evolves. I’m watching with interest the developments in the new British Dressage (BD) structure and the planned changes to help increase the popularity of the sport.

    Judging from the outfits at a recent Team Quest show at my base in Cholderton, many BD members seem ready to embrace changes in traditional competition clothing.

    There is opposition to this, but they seem to be the same people that advocate personal choice in the wearing of top hats over protective headwear. In their quest to keep everything traditional at all costs, they don’t seem to believe in quite that same personal choice over the wearing of different coat colours and styles.

    The traditionalists should have more faith in the membership’s good taste. We’re at liberty to wear what we like on a daily basis in this country (thankfully) and only a small number of people choose to dress outrageously. I think we’re a long way from leopard-print tailcoats and I’d like to see more individuality.

    After all, the horses are allowed to express themselves, so why not the riders?

    The ends of the spectrum

    The recent feature in the H&H dressage special (26 March) on making lazy horses reactive was great. Professionals tend to choose hot horses as they have the experience and skill (and brave stable jockeys) to cope with high spirits when these horses are young.

    However, a lot of horses I teach with fall into the steadier category, and need motivation to produce their best work. Their riders are aware that it should all look easy, so an article that addressed this was long overdue.

    Pegasus, my former grand prix ride, was lazy — but I’m at the other end of the dial now as Die Callas is a really hot horse, so it’s more about coordinating aids with my ventriloquist skills as I mutter “whoa whoa whoa”.

    Which requires more skill — motivating or placating — is hard to say. It’s certainly easier to offend a more sensitive partner, after all you can always say something again but you can’t take it back!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 April 2015