Carl Hester: How about putting in some effort? [H&H VIP]

  • The British Dressage Supporters Club (BDSC) does exactly what it says on the tin. Set up to support dressage at all levels, the BDSC is not part of British Dressage, but the two organisations work together when possible.

    The BDSC organises hospitality at the national championships and Hickstead, and trips abroad (Aachen’s on the calendar this year); sponsors the annual judges’ seminar; and provides training grants to under-25s, plus numerous prizes and recognitions of achievement. Now, the BDSC needs our help.

    I have benefited from the BDSC’s support over the years. The majority of those years, when we were without medals — and not even in the running for them, still the BDSC arrived at every major championship waving flags and encouraging us, and never looking down at us when things didn’t go well.

    So why does the BDSC need our help? Many members became founder members when the organisation was set up by Jane Wykeham-Musgrave in 1983, so the funding stream from annual membership could do with a boost. It’s not expensive, at £25 for an individual. If you’re supporting BDSC, then you are supporting people who are supporting you. And with members’ discounts at major retailers you can save the annual fee on shopping for your horse…

    Although the BDSC seems a pretty slick organisation, it is a minority of unpaid, committed individuals who do all that hosting and fund-raising. If you can help with fundraising or the marketing effort, get in touch.

    Do bear in mind, dear pony riders, juniors and young riders of the future, that for being on teams you’ll want as much support as possible. How about putting some effort into it now?

    I think this is something each region should take on. In my region Glenys Hemming of Abbey Dressage is planning to run a show, at a date to be arranged, with the proceeds going to support the BDSC. It’ll be a fun day with classes for all and prizes — yes, remember those, going back to the good old days?

    I have donated a morning watching me train my horses, and Glenys would like to see as many locals as possible taking part. So how about a few more around the country?

    Expression update?

    I have been doing a lot of thinking about the FEI rules — the definitions. Is it time to ask if they are as relevant as they should be for today’s dressage horse?

    Discussing the origins of the definitions with David Pincus was fascinating. They evolved some 400 years ago, from a mixture of the cavalry school (where the emphasis was on fitness for army service, rather than on the gymnastic element), the baroque high school for collection, and the French “lightness” school.

    I feel that we need to add more on expression. I don’t actually think they need changing — after all, the rules are there for the benefit and welfare of the horse — but perhaps they should be added to?

    This would primarily be to take into account the range of breeds and shapes in dressage today. Can the poll always be the highest point? Look at an Andalusian stallion with a big crest, for example, or a modern competition horse such as Rubi (who captured hearts ridden by Gonçalo Carvahlo at the London Olympics).

    Is this physically possible? Or at least, is it possible without detriment to another area, such as engagement of the hind leg and suppleness of the back?

    So, food for thought; consider whether these rules need additions, to accurately reflect the diversity of today’s dressage horses and their capacity for expression. I’m going to keep thinking, get some views from colleagues and report back in my next column.

    It would be interesting to hear ideas from people who have trained their own horses and ridden to top class level, to explain some of the feelings they experience — which are not obvious to people that don’t ride and rely on pictures to form their opinions!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 29 January 2015