Carl Hester: Is the dressage world overreacting or just lazy? *H&H VIP*

  • There seems to be a tendency to overreact in some quarters of the dressage world — you wouldn’t call 999 when you get a cold, would you? Or, maybe, it’s just laziness.

    Why do people pester judges and federations with queries which are easily answered by a few clicks on the FEI website? I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the computer age, but even I can negotiate my way around the FEI site — although admittedly it’s a lot more user-friendly than it used to be.

    For example, if in your freestyle you don’t perform a canter half-pass left, don’t expect a one or a two for it. If a compulsory movement is completely omitted, it’s a zero. It’s on the website.

    Of course there are times when discussion with the judges and officials is hugely informative, but some issues are rules not opinions. So, if you have a query about judging or are not sure of the rules, let your fingers do the walking to the judges’ directives on the FEI website. Let’s spare these very busy people.

    New equine talent

    Amsterdam’s always a great show, but this year there were two special highlights for me.

    The first was seeing Edward Gal ride Glock’s Zonik to win the prix st georges with over 81%. The crowd gave the pair a standing ovation, and with over 350,000 hits on YouTube the horse has caused quite some stir. Following in Toto’s footsteps? With the backing of Edward’s sponsors Glock’s at least the partnership will be secure.

    The other was seeing Isabell Werth’s outstanding job riding Weihegold to win the FEI World Cup freestyle. It was the 11-year-old mare’s debut in an international music class.

    Isabell and I share the same view about giving up-and-coming riders chances and nurturing their development, and Isabell has carefully collaborated with her assistant trainer Beatrice Buchwald in bringing up this mare.

    Sometimes in a horse’s career it’s about giving chances, but equally there are times when it’s about being big enough to step in and give a horse confidence. There’s no defeat in letting a more experienced rider take over and, in that ride, Isabell will have brought the mare on six months in one test. The confidence and way of going were absolutely breathtaking.

    How free a freestyle?

    The new freestyle rules are due out in the next few months and I wonder how well riders will deal with having to submit their exact test prior to the competition?

    Looking at this potential development one could argue whether it will still be freestyle as we know it. Will there be a chance to alter course if, for example, a horse takes exception to a particular corner? Will there be a penalty for using — well, let’s call it a “booby line” since I can’t think of the right term — but where you keep a spare line up your sleeve in case of having a mistake, for example in a line of tempi changes?

    The question is hypothetical until we actually see the new rules, but I’m sure all riders will be eagerly waiting to find out what is in store for us.

    At the end of the day the music is still a matter of personal taste, but it’s to be hoped that the technical and degree of difficulty factors will have been dealt with in a way with which few can argue.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 11 February 2016