British Dressage Supporters Club (BDSC) trip organiser Lorrie Sisson on being reduced to tears of panic and joy. As told to Leslie Bliss.
It was my daughter Adele who got me hooked on dressage, and through her I ended up on various committees from the local Pony Club branch to British Dressage (BD) marketing, and I was the first eastern region rep for what is now BD Youth, a position I held for eight years.
These days, I organise trips to international championships for BDSC and help look after sponsors at the BD national championships and convention.
The BDSC was founded in 1983 to raise funds for and awareness of dressage, which at the time was considered the poor relation of the equestrian world. It was launched at the national dressage championships when they were held at Goodwood House in West Sussex. The Duke and Duchess of Richmond arranged for the club to have a free tent to use — and the first of many glasses of wine was handed out to anyone who ventured into the marquee.
I joined BDSC in the early 1980s, and took on the voluntary job of organising trips in 1997. Originally the trips were arranged for judges to see the standard of the sport abroad. As there was a lot of interest, it was opened up to all members, who came on their own or with friends — or the odd brave husband.
There are normally around 30 people on these trips, which include flights, coach travel, hotels on a B&B basis, and transfers and tickets to the events.
We have a meal together on the first evening and another at the end to celebrate or commiserate, depending on the results. We make time for shopping and sightseeing, such as visiting the riding school at Jerez and exploring Rome.
A large bar is an essential: it is where everyone congregates to mull over the day’s competition. Many hotels have been rejected because the bar is not up to the required standard.
The first trip I arranged was to the 1998 World Games. In those days, as the eventing and dressage ran concurrently, we also arranged everything for the eventing supporters. The hotel I had chosen was on the right side of Rome for the eventing, but on the wrong side for the dressage. Crossing the city in rush hour was horrendous and I remember feeling 42 pairs of eyes glaring at my back on the bus to the dressage to get there for the 8.30am start.
The Moscow Europeans in 2005 were particularly memorable — a nervous breakdown moment — as it was cancelled two weeks beforehand.
More than 30 people had paid £99 each for a Russian visa. Our travel agent rearranged everything for us to go to the new venue, Hagen in Germany, although the coach driver got lost and there was feuding among the family who owned the hotel, which was in the process of being sold. Everyone was so understanding, but I did have sleepless nights.
Moscow made me cry, as did the 2011 Rotterdam Europeans, but this time they were tears of joy — we won team gold. The early years were hard because we knew we had talented riders, but lacked the horse power. Watching the progress of British dressage has been a long journey, but so rewarding; I feel privileged to have been a part of it.
The icing on the cake is always when we meet the British team for drinks, which BDSC chairman Penny Smith has been amazing at organising.
A loyal band of supporters has been with me on every trip I have organised. It is always interesting to meet new people, and many have become good friends. Someone always writes a newsletter at the end.
One wrote what I feel is a good job description. I quote: “She has the patience of a saint, the persistence of a Rottweiler and the planning skills of Hannibal the Great.”
I try not to dwell on mistakes, but to learn from them — to keep calm when things don’t go as planned. I do my best to ensure everyone feels included and comfortable. So far, I have always come back with the same number of people that I started out with, so that is good.
Ref Horse & Hound; 23 January 2020