Carl Hester: Charlotte Dujardin should have won gold at WEG *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Our result at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) was a good job done again and a huge relief for the future, as our key aim was to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Team bronze was a bonus and the best we could have hoped for with three young horses on the team.

    How amazing to see Charlotte back in the medal zone, just two years after Valegro’s retirement, with the amazing talent that is Mount St John Freestyle.

    I’ll be honest, and you can call me biased, but when I got home and watched all three medal-winning tests again, I did think Charlotte should have won. There was more ground cover in all three paces. But luckily for Isabell Werth and Laura Graves, I’m not a judge.

    We were lucky, too, that the wildest weather day merely resembled a wet, windy day in Wales. The information coming our way about Hurricane Florence was pretty scary, but in fact Tryon was about 400 miles west of the coast, and had actually served as an evacuation site for horses during the previous year’s Hurricane Irma.

    Tryon itself has the makings of a great championship venue, although it wasn’t really finished. When it comes to the future of WEG, the answer has to be a rotation between two or three of the best venues in the world to secure the future of the concept as a whole. One suitable venue, of course, is Aachen; pop any more ideas on a postcard!

    Some sports, such as vaulting and reining, dressage and showjumping do seem to marry up well together.

    Instead of a long-winded event, why not run more of the sports concurrently, instead of one after the other? It could cut the time of the overall event, which would also reduce the cost, and improve footfall.

    A nationals revamp

    My first year of not riding at the National Dressage Championships presented an opportunity to concentrate on helping my pupils and watch some really good dressage. There is so much to like about the nationals that I find it difficult to criticise, but I feel that it’s a tired venue, tired championships and tired atmosphere.

    This is in no way an attack on the organisation, which is superb and efficient, but let’s face facts: we know September weather can be dodgy. Our yard spent over £3,000 on entries and stabling. We did not expect flooded stables and wet shavings. Surely, with modern stabling available, it’s time to ditch the old?

    There were some amazing quality combinations to watch, and the demonstrations seemed popular. The shopping seems to cater for everyone — not that “everyone” is there these days. With so few people present, I was amazed those trying to escape the weather were charged for grandstand seating.

    Surely live scoring is one more thing to appeal to audiences? It’s, frankly, boring waiting for scores to be added and announced several competitors later.

    I understand British Dressage is contractually tied to Stoneleigh for one more year, but on the plus side, that’s two years to source a new venue that can cater for the championships on the scale they deserve.

    It’s also time to reconsider the timing of this event. The nationals will never be the best of the best when they clash with each year’s major championship. How much more appealing a shop window they would be if they also formed selection trials for the year’s championship team. Let’s follow the rest of the world.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 11 October 2018