Anna Ross: A bottle of wine and a sigh of relief *H&H VIP*

  • The new structure for British Dressage has come out and — armed with a bottle of wine — I sat down to peruse the rule book.

    Happily, it was nothing like as complicated as I had feared.

    Rules aside, some people will always compete at the highest level they can and some the lowest.

    Riders — and owners — are motivated by different goals. Some gain great satisfaction from competing in a class of professional riders (and often beating some), while others prefer to be at the top of a class of less experienced combinations.

    However much the rules change, human nature will not.

    The silver section may need refining, as it looks like it will be huge. The expectation is that the highest-scoring combinations will pass quickly into gold, but it remains to be seen how this works in practice.

    As a group one rider, not much changes for me except that should I feel the urge to compete a just-backed four-year-old in a novice class I may now do so.

    A benefit of the new system is that previously those who had brought just one horse up through the grades were excluded from riding in lower level classes. This prevented a lot of less affluent young professionals from being able to progress their careers for fear of cutting off their crucial finances.

    I remember having to make this decision myself; it was a difficult time being torn between wanting to follow my dream to compete internationally and being scared of committing financial suicide in the process. My owners were very much divided in their feelings.

    I think this is a much fairer and better system for the sport going forward and will relieve this pressure on vital owner-rider relationships. The future will always rely on opportunities being passed down the line and I will be giving my stable jockey Beth Bainbridge the ride on one of my own horses to try for international selection next year — with the expectation that I will be put in an excellent old people’s home should she find fame and fortune.

    Bright young things

    I enjoyed the “Sweetest rivalry” feature a couple of weeks ago (26 November) and was reminded of another famous mother-daughter relationship when I saw Lottie Fry looking like a future star to win the under-25 inter II and grand prix at Roosendaal CDI last week (2 December). Her late mother Laura was a much-loved Olympian and Lottie looks set to follow suit.

    I like to think I’m quite progressive and open-minded, but I admit to a sharp intake of breath at the orange stirrup irons sported by some of the Dutch riders at Roosendaal. Even as one who fully supports personalisation of riding wear, I’m not sure if it’s a step too far; they looked a bit like sidelights.

    Although it would be a great incentive to keep my legs still, I hope bright red ones don’t become a part of the Team GBR official uniform.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 December 2015