Carl Hester: Horse welfare must be top priority *H&H VIP*

  • The European Championships for juniors and young riders produced controversy this year. Clearly the weather was extreme, over 40°C at times, and that’s nobody’s fault, but there must be strategies around keeping horses and riders comfortable.

    Riders, as a rule, can take care of themselves (or not, in the case of fainting children) but what about the horse, who can’t?

    Surely there was enough advance warning? The forecast indicated a heatwave was highly likely, so why were no fans and cooling mists — which we’ve had before — provided? It’s not a question of hot areas not holding shows, but, for the welfare of the horse, there has to be a plan.

    I’ve competed at Vidauban several times. Bernadette Brune does a wonderful job and she can’t be held responsible. The FEI has to take control to ensure conditions are managed and adapted to. Having spoken to trainers there, conditions sounded pretty horrendous. Welfare has to be in the right order on the list — at the top.

    Team prospects on show

    Hartpury’s CDI (pictured) has really put itself on the international stage with top stabling, surfaces and a wonderful ambience. Very few places in the world at which I’ve competed have such good surfaces. The fact that our team prospects (the team will have been picked by the time this is in print) were competing on home soil attracted a huge audience — and a slot on the evening TV news made for a real festival.

    It’s such a shame that more foreign competitors don’t come, but with the increasing costs of travel and ferries, plus the nightmare situation for lorries crossing the Channel — the risk of invasion by illegal immigrants — it’s perhaps not surprising.

    The teams already selected for the upcoming Aachen Europeans look very exciting.

    German national coach Monica Theodorescu and the selectors have of course included Totilas. He impressed at Hagen, his only competition this year, which I can’t help but think has been a tactical decision to save him for the Europeans. The job of the selectors is to pick a gold-medal team, which is a huge pressure. We must remember Aachen on home ground is a huge deal for Germany, but I can’t help feeling sorry for some of the other competitors who fulfilled the criteria, produced high scores and weren’t selected.

    That said, finally Totilas and Valegro go head-to-head at a major championship, which people will be looking forward to (and no doubt bitching about!). Charlotte, Fiona Bigwood and I look good for Team GBR and with Michael Eilberg directing his attentions to Marakov, their last grand prix score (73.6%) makes them hot for the fourth spot.

    There was something about Hartpury that brought out the best. Valegro did a good grand prix, though it showed the need for tweaking. His special looked on for a record until a mistake in the one-times, a timely reminder to keep us on our toes.

    And Nip Tuck? Every time I think he’s reached the ceiling, he pulls out more stops and reminds me never to say never. Fiona’s mare Atterupgaards Orthilia is truly world-class. At only 10 she needs to be ridden carefully with Rio in mind.

    With grands prix of 85%, 78% and 76%, this could be a really exciting championship for us.

    Other riders showing promise were Gareth Hughes with Classic Briolinca and Henriette Anderson with Warlocks Charm. Over in Hagen, Spencer Wilton scored 73% in the special with Supernova, so there is at last some depth to our squad.

    Finally, Valegro and Nip Tuck were surprised after getting on the lorry for their latest party to find there was no plane nor ferry — just a 20-minute trip down the road!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 July 2015