Carl Hester: The opportunities at home equal the best in Europe *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    As we have passed the 100-day countdown to the World Equestrian Games (WEG), Britain’s team dressage prospects look healthy. If my counting is correct, there are approximately eight riders with promising horses who have scored over 70% internationally this year, which is impressive.

    Although some of these horses may have a way to go, they are all ridden by seasoned professionals, who could provide an exciting shake-up. And with Spencer Wilton and Super Nova II due to make their seasonal debut at Hartpury in July, we could have a very promising team.

    I recently noticed a comment on a European news website that Charlotte and I seem to be “staying at home” to compete. My answer to that is with the current international opportunities at home, the stabling, surfaces and atmosphere that are equal to the best in Europe, why would we need to cross the Channel? Is there a suggestion that we’re avoiding the opposition? I wonder why they’re not saying the same about the Germans who, apart from Isabell Werth, who has a string of horses, don’t travel if they don’t have to.

    For some horses, travelling can be as stressful as competing. Our priority is the welfare of our young grand prix horses, who need to be nurtured with Olympics in mind.

    The best WEG yet?

    Mark Bellissimo, the driving force behind Tryon, has an unparalleled team working on delivering this September’s WEG. Michael Stone and Sharon Decker are leading teams focused on processing a wealth of feedback from previous WEG organisers, riders and stakeholders.

    Grooms will be housed on site, and transport for teams, rider and spectators has been streamlined. The travel for horses arriving from abroad will be as good as any international flight can be — the drive is just 50 miles from the airport to Tryon, where post-arrival quarantine will be on site. And if I’m lucky enough to be selected, with six restaurants at the venue, it’s a festival of food!

    Keep fighting, Penny

    The news that Penny Pollard will be stepping down as British Dressage (BD) chair at the next AGM is very sad. Her battle against cancer over the past seven years has been a brave one. Having known Penny for 10 years, I sincerely hope she is able to tackle this awful disease with her usual positive outlook.

    Her contribution to the BD board — a professional steer, providing financial stability and improving stakeholder relationships — has been immeasurable. With her husband Keith, Penny has also supported the young professional programme, sponsoring the development days and providing the bursary for the finalist.

    This award has grown in stature and has provided a stepping stone for many young professionals, who I’m sure are extremely grateful.

    Penny has given so much personal time to attend shows, meetings and seminars, and has been so enthusiastic about our sport while also open to suggestions. My favourite Penny story to date is her leading a Macarena-style dance around the pool after the medal ceremony in Rio. Her balance and poise, even after a glass of wine, shows how upright and steadfast she is in any situation.

    On behalf of all the riders, Penny, keep fighting, as we’re going to need you for many years to come.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 14 June 2018