Carl Hester: Bring back the wow factor *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I was glad to be able to attend this year’s British Dressage (BD) convention at Hartpury. There was valuable input from BD’s judging director Peter Storr and vet Dr Rachel Murray. Rachel has ridden to grand prix level and has been involved in providing scientific advice to the World Class programme for the past 10 years as well as advising on the maintenance and preparation of numerous team horses for championships, including Olympic Games.

    Although I was only there on one day, I would question why so few people attend nowadays. The numbers seemed to have halved from what they were several years ago. The feedback from a group who didn’t attend was that many would be more inclined to go if the convention featured somebody they don’t normally have access to.

    I do agree with BD’s decision not to livestream the event, providing the venue moves around the country to enable ease of access and cost of travel and overnight stays to be spread.

    Peter, Rachel, Emile Faurie, Gareth Hughes and Sophie Wells worked well together. However, while the opportunity to see grand prix trainers working with their own pupils and horses is, of course, inspiring, there is still something missing for many grassroots riders, who don’t feel it applies to them.

    The good news for the future, chatting to BD training director Paul Hayler, is that he is in talks to find some exciting main presenters for next year.

    There may be an advantage to splitting the two days into one geared towards amateurs and the other towards professionals. It would be great to see a way forward for the convention as it does bring in valuable funds for BD.

    Big names

    Over the years, we’ve had some great names headlining the convention, such as the late Dr Reiner Klimke and Herbert Rehbein, Sjef Janssen, Conrad Schumacher, Jan Bemelmans and Nicole Uphoff. These one-off opportunities to see trainers we’d not seen in action before was a huge draw and I remember those events being sold out.

    Another way BD could perhaps recoup more money is by producing a DVD of the convention, which would be a great way for people to recap and study in depth later.

    I still think nothing beats an opportunity to see someone new in person, but people do go online to watch training.

    I was thinking about this as my former head girl Jo Barry was down from Scotland for some training. She remembers taking one of my horses — a challenging chestnut named Jaguar — to Reiner Klimke’s convention back in the day.

    She was first on and warming up when the little whatsit deposited her on the floor. First on the scene was Reiner, who helped her back on, charged her up with confidence and proceeded to give her keys to working “Jag” at movements we wouldn’t have thought of doing at that stage without his wisdom and inspiration.

    You could say that in those days we didn’t have the level of home-grown and home-based trainers, so we had to import, but the point is that we should reintroduce the wow factor to get the convention back to being an event everyone wants to attend.

    Finally, let me sign off by wishing everyone a great Christmas.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 6 December 2018