Carl Hester: Dedication to the sport prevails *H&H VIP*


  • I’ll be heading to the Rotterdam Europeans with the fantastic memory of winning Britain’s first gold medal at the 2011 championships. We don’t have the pressure of qualifying for Tokyo, so it will be more about asking the maximum from new horses and riders.

    Gareth Hughes has earned fabulous scores with Classic Briolinca this year, and young Lottie Fry has been quite simply fantastic. My old friend and mentor Anne van Olst and her husband Gertjan have supplied Lottie with superb horses, and along with the rest of the team, they can travel to Rotterdam with high hopes.

    The judges seem thrilled to see young riders, and why not — they’re our future.

    I’ve felt lucky to have been helping Portugal’s João Torrão and Equador this summer. We should feel blessed, not threatened, by his victory at Hickstead. Portugal could qualify for Tokyo; the team’s looking healthy for it, but they’re under pressure with such a big following for the Lusitano breed.

    All four members of the Portugal team ride Lusitanos and it’s brilliant to see the new crop of horses and riders performing in the modern way and proving the breed can be competitive in top sport. The Lusitano is well known for being able to perform the High School movements, piaffe and passage, but to introduce suppleness, good half-passes, and extensions is really exciting.

    Every show should embrace Aachen

    Returning to CHIO Aachen on foot last month rather than riding there was a real joy. I’d forgotten the feeling you get from the town of Aachen, that everyone is totally involved with the show. As German chancellor Angela Merkel said: “The heart of the equestrian sport beats in Aachen.”

    The Aachen appeal is what every show needs to embrace: there was constant information regardless of the rider’s nationality; the dressage judging app involved the audience; and the master of explanation, Christoph Hess, on the radio with Heike Kemmer was brilliant keeping spectators updated on right and wrong, all with a dash of humour.

    So much has changed since the early years of my Aachen experience. The warm-up is now open to spectators (or the baying public, whichever way you look at it). Working with FEI chief steward Jacques van Daele, the German federation and the Aachen organisation brought about changes this year, not least the introduction of “info stewards” to provide spectators with information.

    All riders responded in a positive way to the changes and this transparency does put the onus on the social media desk jockeys to come out in public and voice their opinion if they want to make a difference. While most riders feel suffocated by the pressures of social media, this level of openness gives us a better shot.

    The British team of Charlotte Dujardin, Louise Bell and Lottie did us proud. With Charlotte scoring highly on Erlentanz, Lottie rode her way to a team place with Dark Legend and ruled the small tour with Glamourdale, a future star.

    For former hunter showing champion Louise, riding at Aachen is an inspiration, showing that it is possible to break into the world of dressage. Louise proves that hard work and dedication prevail.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 15 August 2019