Anna Ross: walks that shuffle like camels in the Sahara [H&H VIP]

  • The summer season is well under way and both competitors and breeders are looking to the future.

    I have been lucky enough to have been invited to some amazing shows recently, including Glock’s CDI4* at Treffen (4 June), which featured appearances from Robbie Williams and Mariah Carey, and I am writing this column from the island of Mallorca, where I am competing in the four-star international.

    All this globe-trotting is to give Cassie [Die Callas] experience, and it’s certainly working as our scores and placings are going up, but at this rate I may be devastated when she finally settles down!

    The impact of the walk

    Having been to so many international competitions this year, it is clear that the walk marks are having a significant impact.

    International judging protocol dictates that if a horse has one walk that is not “pure” in sequence (often described as lateral), that horse cannot score more than a six for paces overall. If both the collected and extended walks are lateral, then the horse cannot score more than five, which can affect the overall score by 3-4%.

    The rule is correct — after all, we don’t accept four beat canters. We see many horses with stunning trots and canters, but when matched with walks resembling camels in the Sahara, the advantages are lost.

    In my experience, judges tend to be more lenient at British national shows — it is a brave judge who actually scores a horse with a stunning trot and canter a five or six for paces based on the walk alone, but it has happened internationally.

    Of course some horses do not have good walks from nature and it’s very difficult to change that, but it is down to breeders to breed horses with good natural walks, and riders to preserve them and choose horses who can score highly in this gait as competitive prospects.

    The battle is on

    The British team will soon be announced for the European Championships in Aachen. The first three places of Carl, Charlotte and Fiona look assured, but with so many combinations able to score over 70% internationally now, there is an interesting battle going on for the fourth team slot.

    I’ve been flying back home between competitions to prepare riders for the upcoming regional championships — and the Pan Am Games, which are also approaching fast.

    H&H 18 June, 15