Anna Ross: ‘The rider should be to the horse an Armani suit not a My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding dress’ *H&H VIP*

  • There have been more rule changes this month and it has finally been decreed that the colour of one’s boots does not affect performance. Doubtless this will be of horror to traditionalists, but I think it’s a step forward.

    Adding individuality to a sport where traditionally we have all been dressed identically is vital to promoting that sport, as well as being more fun for the riders and spectators.

    I remember when the Brits were considered rather “fashion forward” with our red collars. A note of caution though: the rider should be to the horse an Armani suit not a My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding dress. The star in this show should be the horse, not the rider.

    Missed strides in Spain

    The Sunshine tour is under way in Spain and, as a lorry dweller, the trappings of international competition don’t always prove to be quite as glamourous as they sound.

    I sleep in the Luton above the cab and Die Callas’ (Cassie) owner Jane Sewell has been banished to the “downstairs suite” following her partying antics that caused her to “miss a stride” a few times on the way to bed.

    My dog Benjy abandoned me for a week and slept with her, but that’s pretty standard for the Sunshine tour.

    It’s always fun there — the Bermudan rider Annabelle Collins hosts a great party on the Sunday night.

    The gate was locked early every evening causing the competitors to have to hurdle it to get back to their lorries, or leg each other over — causing great consternation among those who  “always use a mounting block”.

    It was great to see Farouche competing in the middle tour and showing promising piaffe/passage. Anyone who said she wouldn’t make a grand prix horse had better prepare to eat their crash hat.

    The power of G-force

    One does need a steady head for dressage. Not just to maintain the all important rhythm and balance, but also the inevitable highs and lows that come with the sport.

    At the Jerez CDI, our first show of the season, Cassie was over-excited and blew up. This happens every year after her winter break.

    We break-danced our way through the first halt and I contemplated retirement, but then decided that sometimes one just has to man up and take it on the chin. So I did.

    At the end of the test the lovely international judge at C just said, “Anna — Oh my god”.

    I actually looked 10 years younger by the end as the G-force must have swept all my lines back, though my support team did seem to have aged.

    But two weeks later in Valencia it was a very different story. Cassie was super — we had a nine for the first halt and scored over 70% from every judge in every test.

    We were second by a whisker in the grand prix and won the grand prix special with the judges’ scores between 70% and 73%.

    My advice to other dressage riders in peril? The words of top tennis player Andy Murray’s mother, Judy, when he exited Wimbledon early: “Form is temporary. Class is permanent.”

    Stay focused, stay cool, keep training and enjoy the (rollercoaster) ride.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 31 March 2016