Carl Hester: Why have we lost one of our most prestigious showcases? *H&H VIP*

  • Coming back from Compiègne CDI in France, it struck me that this is a show that has stepped up to the plate and answered riders’ needs. It has transformed from a fledgling show into a classy venue at the top end of the competition scale, with vastly improved surfaces (although sadly the last day was cancelled due to the weather).

    For a country that has not produced a medal since the days of Margit Otto-Crépin’s individual Olympic silver in 1988, and as a team since 1948 (gold), the government help and sponsorship for this show and the interest from a horse country like France is appreciated.

    So it brought me only sadness to hear that Hickstead, which since 2009 had delivered international competition on the home stage, can’t afford to run this year. With the huge surge in popularity of our sport, alongside the national news and TV coverage, the recognition of Great Britain as a worldwide force in dressage and horse sport in general is great. So why have we lost one of our most prestigious showcases?

    Dane Rawlins went to the wire of putting down the deposit for this year before making the tough decision to halt. Dane’s never taken a penny out of the show which, last year, lost £30,000. This year, risking more than that was a step too far. Dane says that they really need rider backing.

    The Bechtolsheimers have been huge supporters all the way and when push came to shove it has been a huge boost that British Dressage (BD) has pulled out all the stops to ensure there is a great show during the Royal International, as the regional finals have moved date.

    Those competitors will have a fine time and a real taste of something special. Then Jonny Clarke-West made a fantastic contribution by sponsoring the prix st georges and grand prix on the Saturday and freestyles at both levels on the Sunday, which will be invitational classes.

    As riders and BD supporters, let’s communicate what this show means to us by buying hospitality tables (and Dane’s going to introduce a sliding scale on this for next year). If 40 people can come up with a grand each, next year’s show is on.

    That’s what it takes: input and feedback, sponsorship, advertising. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and run a demonstration at home, with proceeds going to Hickstead International. The cheque will be in the post Dane. Come on, let’s make it happen.

    Not barking…

    There was a stewards’ convention at the inaugural Keysoe CDI in April and I was asked to add my bit from a rider’s point of view. With vastly increased welfare issues and the spotlight of social media, stewards have a lot on their plate.

    It’s another unpaid job for which we should be grateful that people are willing to give up their time. Far from the image of stewards barking orders, what came across to me was a real camaraderie of people like us — fellow horse lovers. A steward’s job is very intensive, as are their courses. So spare a thought for these guys whom we need at our competitions. They are there come rain or shine, so we can be there too.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 2 June 2016