Carl Hester: Olympic qualification is goal one *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    At the time of writing, Hawtins Delicato (Del) was settled in quarantine in Tryon, North Carolina, for the World Equestrian Games (WEG). Communications from groom Alan Davies suggested he, Mount St John Freestyle and Super Nova II, whom Alan had picked up on the way, had travelled well to Liege, Belgium, and loaded onto the plane well, along with Emile Faurie’s horse Dono Di Maggio.

    You can imagine how nerve-racking this was. We were lucky to have Alan in charge — there’s only one groom per 10 horses. Alan has more horse travel air miles than you can count, so he was the allocated flying groom looking after, among others, the ride of Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, Dalera BB. No nobbling there though — they might be the opposition, but Alan gives them all business class service on board.

    On our arrival, one of the things for riders to think about, especially those of us with the younger horses like Del and Freestyle, was how soon training could commence. We weren’t able to answer this until our first ride. It’s easy to be overambitious and work them non-stop from the day of arrival to the start of competition six days later, but these horses only work two days per week at home — the rest is hacking — so we hoped we’ll be allowed on the gallops and surrounding countryside to keep them fresh.

    As I prepared to leave, the news was that temperatures would be in the 30s and humid. So that has to be taken into consideration — not allowing the horses to over-sweat.

    Goal number one

    I can hardly believe four years have passed since I trotted into the WEG arena in Normandy on Nip Tuck. The atmosphere was incredible, although we all recall the technical nightmares, particularly for spectators. Let’s hope Tryon produces something spectacular.

    Our accommodation is 50 miles away, so we are all praying for light traffic. The plus side is the fantastic opportunity to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. That’s goal number one, so we don’t have to chase qualification next year. The next goal is a medal, which would be nice, and, of course, for the horses to come home sound.

    Best of British?

    I recently saw a poll which indicated numbers at summer regionals continue to drop, particularly in the gold sections. With so many championships now available, does more choice mean the summer championships are no longer everyone’s main aim? Some people have also expressed concern over “the Charlotte factor” [Charlotte Dujardin having taken multiple titles across the levels at recent national championships].

    It’s complicated working out what’s best for you and your horse, and then there’s the cost, with training, entries, travel, food, bedding, accommodation and so on adding up to a small fortune. The summer championships don’t have to be the end game — I hope they maintain the standard of being the best Britain has to offer — but the bulk of classes across the country are made up of amateurs. So, above all, let’s make dressage fun and encourage everyone who wants to take part to do so.

    We’ve got an overnight flight back from Tryon to prepare eight horses for the nationals, so see you there.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 September 2018