Carl Hester: Totilas is back, let’s support him [H&H VIP]

  • Contrary to some rumours going round, this year’s fantastic Somerford show will not be the last. Organiser Julian Sebire tells me that he is just looking to bring fresh blood into the organising set-up.

    That is great news for British Dressage, and I’m glad to hear that Julian will “probably still be around” once he’s groomed someone else to take over.

    After 12 years, the fixture is firmly on the map. The friendliness, the quality of the surfaces and the stabling again gave us the feeling of being at a small international show, which was great for our campaigns.

    As Somerford gives us this feeling already, maybe it is something the new organiser will consider in the future?

    Julian set out with the aim of bringing top-class dressage to Cheshire and that aim has been fulfilled. It was lovely that he was so appreciative of us making the trip, along with Michael Eilberg and Farouche and Spencer Wilton with his up-and-coming string, but we go there because it’s a great show.

    International judge Marian Cunningham came over from the USA via Buckingham Palace and the Household Cavalry garden party. She thanked Julian for the invitation to Somerford (he had nothing to do with the royal command, I’m afraid).

    She remarked on the “amazing” standard of riding, the quality of the horses and the organisation “where everything worked down to the smallest detail”. What a fantastic impression to take home — and the canapés were pretty good as well, I’m told.

    There was an impressive cohort of home-grown judges too: Clive Halsall, Sarah Pidgley and Jo Graham, who are all FEI judges, and Peter Storr, who has taken to international judging like a duck to water (probably literally at Somerford).

    He was judging the grand prix special — one of the team of 5, which is a rarity at home but which Stephen Clarke insists on and it adds to the international flavour. Peter was dragged out of his box to judge the 4-year-olds without a minute for a cup of tea or a pee.

    So any of the few who complained about the young horse classes running late, spare a thought for Peter!

    And although the weather was terrible, all I had to do was think of anyone who rode at Badminton on grass to put it out of my mind. We are very fortunate to have Somerford — long may it continue.

    Totilas back in action

    It was very clever of Totilas’ connections to keep the pressure off in the build-up to his first outing after nearly 2 years. The first I heard about his appearance at CDI Kapellen, the Belgian 3-star, was in a text message — I could hardly believe what I was reading!

    Totilas might not be at his best at the moment, but he still does things for the dressage public that very few horses can. Twitter and Facebook were abuzz.

    A competent, though not perfect, grand prix had the critics saying he wasn’t the same horse. However, in the following grand prix special Totilas was back into the 80s and, lo and behold, the negativity started to turn positive.

    Hopefully, people can move on now. Clearly the horse is not going back to Edward Gal and, for the good of the sport, can we not show some support for Toto and Matthias [Rath]?

    I can think of nothing worse than the pressure they have been under and I can’t help thinking their progression would be quicker and easier with that positive support. Hopefully, they will gain confidence, keep getting better and be back as top rivals for glory at this year’s World Equestrian Games [WEG].

    The Germans are looking strong already — their selection trials are at Perl and Aachen. Damon Hill is excused from Perl due to breeding. And, with Parzival due to start at Arnhem as I write, dressage just got a lot more exciting.

    It’s going to become increasingly difficult to bet on this year’s WEG winners.