Carl Hester: Welcome visitors and an unwelcome one [H&H VIP]

  • Should we accept the fact that para dressage has been left out of the Aachen European Championships schedule?

    It was the buzz from the Global Dressage Forum and sparked an outcry on the International Dressage Riders’ Club Facebook page and, understandably, from some of our most noted Paralympic riders.

    What are the Aachen organisers’ reasons? Is it that para dressage doesn’t “sell”? Or that it’s not what TV broadcasters want to show? Or does Aachen not have room? Whatever the reason — and I would like to hear it — the fact is that Gothenburg has already said para dressage will be part of the 2017 European Championships and for Paralympic dressage to continue to grow as it has, we have to support it wholeheartedly.

    There one minute, gone the next is not good enough.

    Should British Dressage say “if it’s no to the paras, it’s no from us to the Europeans”? I really do think this is something for the federations to take up.

    Let’s remember in equestrianism we have that almost unique situation of women and men taking part on equal terms. We’re at the forefront of equality and in my view the FEI should not miss a chance to keep promoting this fact.

    Wisdom lost, ground lost

    What a huge shame that we have lost three renowned members of the judging supervisory panel (JSP) after Eric Lette, Ghislain Fouarge and Dieter Schüle felt no alternative other than to resign from the panel when their proposals for more authority and clarity were rejected by the FEI.

    The JSP was only introduced at London 2012; it is a work in progress.

    So the fact that the FEI has not seen the potential in listening to these three experienced judges is a major problem and potentially damaging for our sport’s development.

    The still-hot hat debate

    So the hat and attire debate rumbles on. Dressage is not only about harmony and partnership, but also expression, which involves an inevitable element of risk.

    A sport with top athletes and performers is hard to sell to people with kids — looking at which sport to pick up — if it doesn’t have top safety criteria.

    Remember, children are attracted to “cool”, while parents simply want them to be safe. I still believe we’re doing the right thing by wearing helmets and if the helmets aren’t going down well, then let’s change our tailcoats.

    I agree that helmets and tailcoats aren’t the best aesthetic mix, so, if that’s a problem, we should modernise our outfits. I am all for keeping tradition, but it does seem a bit ridiculous that after all the medals Charlotte — and the rest of Team GBR — have won wearing helmets, that anyone is still going on about it. Surely it’s about the dressage!

    Whirlwind tour

    Last week was the travel week from hell! Valegro went to Scandinavia, first stop Denmark, where I was able to watch the Danish young horse championships.

    The popularity of dressage in Denmark — always a horse nation — is amazing, and it was fun to watch such high-quality championships. To be honest, we’d be hard pushed to find two horses of that quality in a class over here, let alone a class-full.

    With a clinic in the evening wrapped up — which despite last-minute nerves went well — our Friday night was spent in Oslo at the Kingsland jumping show.

    We went at the invitation of the organisers and when I asked why they wanted a dressage demo at a jumping show, it was explained that when news of Valegro’s appearance went out on social media it scored thousands of hits in the first hour. They couldn’t believe that dressage had come to the public’s attention in such a big way.

    It was a fantastic atmosphere and I left Charlotte there to do her music on Valegro without the pressure of competition while I caught the last flight out to be with Richard Davison at our Dressage Convention for the weekend.

    The many highlights there included an in-hand display by one of the Spanish Riding School riders and an excellent judge’s viewpoint from Stephen Clarke.

    Nip Tuck was on display both days while I make the decision on whether or not he will suit the indoor World Cup season. As this column goes to press I am still undecided…

    An unexpected passenger

    The team picked up an interesting addition to the lorry load on the way home in the form of an illegal immigrant. It is terribly sad that some people have to take such desperate measures to escape their circumstances, but nevertheless I would prefer that they didn’t travel with our seven-time gold medallist. Valegro didn’t know about that however, as the stowaway was underneath the lorry.

    This column was first published in Horse & Hound (30 October, 2014)