Carl Hester: ‘Even the normally unflappable Valegro was trying to make a quick exit’ *H&H VIP*

  • The show at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez, Spain, was a massive hit with me, apart from the dire prize money, but when you can eat great food in the old town for just a few euros, who’s complaining?

    Having arrived on the Tuesday, attending the school’s demonstration on the Wednesday afternoon along with 1,600 children under the age of 10 had even the normally unflappable Valegro trying to make a quick exit.

    Sitting up in the stands the kids made the show electric as they whooped and stomped. They were totally engrossed in the experience with lit-up faces and the excitement generated was just like a pop concert. The school’s in-hand work and airs above the ground are the best in the world.

    It got me thinking: it’s much lamented that there aren’t more boys riding. But looking at this crowd and the male-dominated horse world in Spain their problem is how to get girls to ride. I suggest a massive holiday swap with girls coming to England and boys going to Spain.

    Olympic qualifications

    Although it seems unlikely, the score jump made by the Russian combination Mister X and Inessa Merkulova at Moscow CDI was unanimous. So there is nothing to say, no rules were broken.

    Then there’s Lier CDI. I mentioned the heavy Ukrainian influence at this show last year (November) and now, having been accused of nationalistic judging, the Ukrainian Federation is demanding an apology from the FEI. But why put yourselves in this position in the first place by allowing Ukrainian judges to mark up their home riders yet again?

    And consider the cost of travel for the UK riders who attended — upwards of £2,000. As the results of the whole class (the grand prix special) were annulled, that included those of the British riders, removing the Olympic and world ranking points they had earned. Well, frankly, the show should refund their entries and costs.

    My solution to the debacle would be to have a pre-Olympic show at somewhere like Rotterdam, with Olympic judges, for which riders qualify then all come forward to compete against each other. It would make the process transparent and exciting.

    Goodbye to Nan and Diana

    Sadly March saw the passing of two very influential women in my life: my grandmother, Pamela Cocksedge, who pushed me off the Isle of Sark aged 16 to pursue my career with horses, and then Diana Mason, my old friend, team-mate with whom I made my team debut in 1990, and doyenne of British dressage.

    Nan was awarded her MBE in the 2011 Queen’s birthday honours list for over 30 years of volunteering for island charities and Revitalise, which provides respite breaks for disabled people and carers. In typical Nan style, when she received the award it was not at Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace but on Sark as she had asked, wanting to share the occasion with the island and her friends and family.

    An FEI judge and Olympic rider, Diana was the tour de force of the British Horse Society dressage group (the forerunner of British Dressage) and was awarded the OBE for services to equestrian sport in 2008. She was a pioneer in eventing as the first lady to ride on a British team and won team gold at the 1954 European Championships.

    The list of her achievements is too long for this column, but I will always remember her immaculately turned out, invariably in red and white with matching red lipstick and a handbag, which she could wield with as much power as Margaret Thatcher.

    They say that behind every good man there’s a good woman. I can honestly say I am very grateful to these two hugely characterful women and I’m really going to miss them.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 7 April 2016