Anna Ross: Rio will be better than WEG (worst ever games) 2014 *H&H VIP*

  • When our Europeans team was announced it was Michael Eilberg who was the much speculated upon fourth team member. It is well deserved: he’s been a class act all year, consistently scoring plus-70% at big four-star shows, including Aachen.

    I was really delighted to be named as a reserve with Die Callas. I’ll be using the autumn shows to begin putting my foot down in readiness for next year’s Olympic campaign.

    Inspiration from afar

    I have just returned from the Pan Am Games, where I was coaching the Brazilian eventing team. I’m happy to report that it was a roaring success, with the team taking the silver medal. From a personal perspective, it was pretty satisfying that for the first time in history a Brazilian rider, Ruy Fonseca, was in the lead after dressage. Their medal position surprised a lot of people, particularly the teams from the USA and Canada, who have historically had a free run of the top two places — but it didn’t surprise me and Mark Todd, who have been coaching the team for two years now and knew how much they had improved.

    There were some interesting concepts at the Pan Am Games and I wondered whether some could be incorporated into our British system. These would offer incentives to the middle group of riders competing at higher levels but who have not competed at the National Championships or internationally. This group is not well served at the moment, as small tour and big tour riders who are not qualified for the nationals only have the Area Festival final once a year to aim for. There is nothing for grand prix riders in this position, as Area Festivals only go up to inter I.

    There will be a new small tour championship aimed at this group next year.

    I wonder whether, for the future, this could be extended to a team competition based on the system at the dressage Pan Ams, where there were teams of four made up of both small and big tour horses. Those competing big tour had 1.5% added to their score to level things out. It’s a simple system proven to work and a way of creating a high-level team competition.

    With the success of the home internationals, team inter-regionals and Team Quest competitions, I think this concept could have a popular place in our dressage calendar.

    The other idea was for British Dressage to use the USA bronze, silver and gold medallion system. These medallions are earned by achieving certain scores at FEI levels and are worn on the riders’ jackets. I think this is a great way to recognise riding and training achievements. Bronze could be for small tour, silver for middle tour and gold for big tour. These could be presented at the national convention or championships, and would provide a long-term goal.

    Real toilets — and machine guns

    After the Europeans, all focus will be on the Olympic Games in Rio. I’m writing this from the test event, which is a training event to check the systems and schedules for the Games. It is being held at a military base and the venue is fantastic. It makes the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG — or worst ever games) look even worse. The stadium is beautiful, the stables cool, the veterinary centre state-of-the-art, the Brazilian people as warm and welcoming as you would expect, and I’m happy to report that there are real toilets.

    There’s only been one small flaw so far — in London we were greeted by smiling volunteers waving foam fingers to point us to the venue. In Rio we were greeted by soldiers with machine guns. I’m sure they will have sorted it out by next year!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 15 August 2015