Carl Hester: Is anyone listening? *H&H VIP*

  • Does anything ever happen when we columnists raise issues? Reading our musings might be enjoyable to some, to others a load of codswallop but believe me coming up with fresh ideas is not always easy!

    There’s always something to say, but my suggestion that our pony, junior, young riders and under-25s be offered wildcards to compete at the nationals having given their time to teams instead of qualifiers has fallen on deaf ears. Surely these riders who are (or whose parents are) investing in our future deserve this — and free entries. With funding due to be cut and parents forking out more, wouldn’t this be a nice gesture from British Dressage (BD)?

    Not just test riding

    Being still inundated with requests to give demos, from a half-hour slot at a county show to a full day, I’m very conscious that this is our window to show our sport to our target or new audiences, but the top riders can’t be everywhere at once. I’ve roped Charlie Hutton in for Hartpury and Badminton, and very accomplished he is too. It’s invaluable experience and he entertains with knowledge and a sense of humour.

    Could the powers that be please introduce demos to the programme for the Young Professionals Award? How about giving away 250 cheap tickets to BD members (say, a fiver which goes into the prize pot), who then watch the six finalists give a 15-minute demo, then judge them à la X Factor?

    Dressage is not just about those few minutes in the arena for a test; it’s about everything else that goes into our sport, from history to welfare, to being as good a horse trainer as you can be. As one eminent US trainer asked: “Are we teaching people to compete or to ride?” We seniors are lucky to benefit from media training so we are equipped to answer questions not just about the competition, but about theory too. Could that be replicated for other teams and aspiring riders? So, there are a couple of my examples of nothing being done. I wonder if my fellow columnists feel the same?

    Time for a new name?

    It was a huge honour and as much of a pleasurable winning this year’s national title as it was in 1992 when I won my first.
    It was so well deserved for Wanadoo, though I can’t help but feel — as I have for years — that the title of ‘national champion’ should go to our highest-placed senior rider at a major championship. Clearly this would be Valegro and Charlotte this year. And Charlotte proved she agrees by overtaking me in the prize-giving! The grand prix at Stoneleigh is important and fun, but perhaps there could be a different title for the winner? Answers on a postcard…

    Hands in pockets

    It’s exciting news for next year with Bolesworth looking to take up international reins and the new London Spring show at Excel, but let’s not forget the outcry over the loss of Hickstead. I’ve done my demo and sent my cheque for a grand, so I hope others will follow suit and help get Hickstead back on the road. Dane Rawlins is still looking to raise £100k to run the CDI for the next couple of years.

    Valegro bows out

    We have decided that Valegro will officially retire from competition at Olympia this year. I must point out that while this decision may seem odd to some that he’s only 14, fit, sound and well — he’s off in New York this week for a spell of shopping and a demo in Central Park — put simply, the people that care about him feel he has done more for our country than any other horse.

    He’s not retiring from being ridden, or being seen. He’ll be talked about for years to come as the example of what dressage is all about. He’s unique and he deserves this. He retires at the top of his game and there’ll be no walk of shame for him. Dressage fans might want to pack a box of tissues.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 22 September 2016