Carl Hester: what more do people want? *H&H VIP*

  • Listening to gripes about the British Dressage (BD) National Championships, a click on the BD web forum revealed a cross-section of opinions. The food is always a gripe, the toilets, ditto, and the dullness of the venue. But when you look at how many horses have to be accommodated, where do gripers suggest the championships be held?

    I had a look at Germany and the Netherlands. The German championships are only at top level. The whole German system is based on education, with riders making their way from the bottom up through results in the various level. Before starting to compete at all, riders need to pass exams and obtain riding badges. Then they compete in low-level competitions; if they have achieved a certain amount of good placings, they are graded in a higher performance- rating class and get a certain number of ranking-list points.

    This is a prerequisite for moving on to the next level and so on.

    For grand prix, riders must have reached a certain performance level, be members of the German A or B squad, or have been placed first to fifth five times at grand prix or grand prix special in the season (currently 2016/2017). This year there were 19 starters in the grand prix, 18 in the special and 12 in the freestyle. Then for up-and-coming under-25 riders there is the “Piaff-Förderpreis”, and for horses aged from eight to 10 the “Louisdor-Preis” series.

    The championship in the Netherlands includes under-25s, all the young categories from ponies up, and championships from advanced level to grand prix. Qualification is via special selection competitions at small tour and achieving a given percentage at big tour — this year 69% — where 26 started.

    The main difference at the BD national championships is that horses have exposure to that sort of atmosphere, if they qualify, from prelim to grand prix level. So I’d ask, with the abundance of championships available, what more do people want from British Dressage?

    Back to the forum, I am often astonished at how rude people are allowed to be and with the significant resources taken up monitoring all that bile, let’s get rid of it. Then everyone who has a gripe will be forced to air it at the AGM.

    Who ate all the pies?

    The good news, however, on digesting the BD forum was to note a rather elderly lady’s comments on my grand prix test. It’s a story I must repeat although it was later removed.

    The nicest remark this lady could think of on my grand prix was to say that it was lovely I had stopped eating all the pies. Really? Over the past five years, my middle-aged weight has not changed. At the nationals I decided to wear a black tailcoat so, writing while munching a Greggs Cornish pasty, I’d say if conscious of weight comments, wear black — it works for me!

    For those unaware, one day a month at home we organise a visit from BD regions, charities and so on. How lovely to think one lady drove up a couple of weeks ago from Cornwall at an early hour, having received a call for a late place.

    Charlotte and I will be at Your Horse Live at Stoneleigh, where there will be a few surprises: in-hand work and a surprise medallist and characters from my past in a fun-themed evening entitled One on One at Fifty (11 November). Don’t feel you have to wear black as pies won’t be handed out. See you there!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 5 October 2017