Carl Hester: Unbearable, but what alternative? *H&H VIP*

  • Of all the riders I’ve spoken to about the Olympic changes, there doesn’t seem to be a single professional who wants to see teams reduced to three. My personal feeling is that it’s unbearable, as is the inevitable result of increasing the number of flags: having to encompass so many more minimum scores in Olympic competition (although it’s amazing how those scores seem to be achieved in qualification tests).

    However, with lots of high-energy sports coming into the Olympics and more knocking at the door, I feel that, sadly, there is nowhere else to go if dressage is to stay in the Olympics. If it doesn’t it would not just be riders affected but also breeders, who want to see their progeny compete at the pinnacle of international sport.

    On the introduction of music for the grand prix special, it’s all very well saying that the music won’t be part of the performance but what about those capable of funding completely professional music, which highlights strengths and brings emotion? That’s why the freestyle to music is so popular.

    I foresee the special becoming “freestyle” in its own right, so the powers that be might just as well say that. I do want to say in favour, however, that I’m going to put my trust in the “powers that be”, as it is the only way that dressage is going to remain in the Olympics.

    It’s competitive to stay and we have to cling to our foothold to preserve the ultimate honour of competing for our country for riders, trainers, breeders and everyone in the industry, not to mention the funding.


    Where should the power be?

    This got me thinking just who those “powers that be” are. Reading reports of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) general assembly at CHI Geneva just before Christmas — which Isabell Werth and Monica Theodorescu attended — I had to agree with Isabell’s comment that nobody obsesses about the lack of Europeans in the Olympic 3,000m final.

    A lot went on at that meeting, but the thing that made my hair stand on end was that, out of 134 of the FEI’s member states, 60 don’t organise any shows, 17 have no FEI riders and 26 don’t even have any FEI horses! That those countries can vote on the future of our sport is just plain bonkers, so you’ll forgive me if I temper my comments about trust in the “powers that be” with a spoonful of cynicism.

    As the IJRC has highlighted, the FEI really must address this issue and draw up criteria for affiliation establishing a nation’s right to vote. How can we have technical decisions made about our sport by people who have no knowledge or expertise in the field?

    The IJRC names other international federations that have criteria established for voting rights. The International Skiing Federation, for example, requires a minimum number of athletes (500 in their case) and established participation at top-level events, plus the organisation of top international events such as the skiing World Cup in order to vote. I wholeheartedly agree with the IJRC that if the FEI followed that lead our sport would be more professional and credible.

    Weather to run or not?

    At one show before Christmas where a grand prix was scheduled, the weather was freezing and the test was to be run outside. Only one competitor decided not to withdraw, as the footing was rough and partially frozen.

    I feel it’s unacceptable to run on this sort of going. Competitors, if you feel the going is not right to run on, please bring this to the attention of the organisers, and organisers, please scrap the class if the footing’s not acceptable and return the entry fees.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 19 January 2017