Carl Hester: steward checks must be made safer *H&H VIP*

  • The images of Juliet Ramel’s Buriel KH bolting across the Aachen showground with his bridle swinging down by his legs make pretty harrowing viewing. The horse’s noseband had been undone for the bit check then Juliet’s groom pulled off his ear muffs, causing the headpiece of the bridle to come off over the horse’s ears. I was told by US team trainer Robert Dover that the steward insisted the ear muffs were removed despite the noseband straps being loose and the horse already backing up.

    Juliet jumped off when she realised what had happened and a rather panicked looking Swedish support crew tried to restrain the horse, but he had taken fright and bolted back to the stables where US rider Adrienne Lyle finally caught him. Luckily no one was hurt, the horse was not badly injured and for the rest of the show the stewards asked that ear muffs (or fly bonnets) be removed before straps were loosened.

    Nonetheless it could’ve been a very dangerous incident indeed. Anyone who has ever been to
    Aachen will know the applause and noise is astronomical. Young, inexperienced and even more seasoned horses come out of that arena pretty wired.

    While we all appreciate that steward checks are in place for horse welfare and the integrity of the sport I question the process that allowed this to happen. Either riders should be allowed to walk and stretch their horses to calm them before what can be an invasive process — I pity those with headshy horses — or there should be a mobile stable for checks so the potentially volatile horse can be contained safely. Either way, this shouldn’t have happened. It could potentially happen again.

    Iron determination

    Other stories from Aachen were more pleasant. What a gift Laura Graves gave herself on her 30th birthday by beating Isabell Werth, the undeniably brilliant world number one, with Verdades — the horse Laura bought as a foal. I remember the press conference at the World Cup final earlier this year where a disappointed Laura made it clear she wanted to beat Isabell; she in fact stated this as her intention.

    Hearing that one could easily have concluded that Laura was a bit of a sore loser. However, her Aachen victory shows just how sure you can be about achieving your dream. Laura took up that challenge and what an amazing job she did in the special. Having known this slip of a girl for many years, I am delighted, as are many others, to see her and “Diddy” come to the top of the tree. This is what champions are made of.

    However, Laura would have learnt something from watching Isabell bounce back in the kür. This is the sort of inspiration that older riders can provide. Seeing Laura so driven makes me think that next year will be very exciting for Team USA at the World Equestrian Games.

    With the European Championships in Gothenburg now just weeks away, us British team members have a lot to look forward to with the recent results achieved. Of course, we know it’s going to be a battle for a medal, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. My tips for the individual medals are Isabell Werth (Weihegold), Sönke Rothenberger with Cosmo and Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour with Atterupgaards Cassidy.

    Hickstead CDI will be over when you read this, but I hope it was the great success it deserves to be for Dane and his team, and for the supporters and 1000 Club members who made it happen. This must be the only show in the world almost solely supported by riders, owners, trainers and friends. We should be proud of that.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 3 August 2017