Gareth Hughes: I’m happy my horses are the ones I get to take home *H&H VIP*

  • The nationals are the pinnacle of the British dressage calendar, and holding it at this time of year works perfectly for every level, bar the grand prix.

    This year’s grand prix class was the smallest we’ve seen here in a while, which was a pity, but it was also one of the most open. There were five or six combinations that could have won and that added a different dynamic to the competition.

    Unfortunately for spectators, they don’t get to see the top team horses, as the nationals fall after the major championships. It would be very nice to use the grand prix as a home selection trials for the championship each year, but you would really have to separate the grand prix nationals from the other classes to hold it earlier, which takes away from the atmosphere of the nationals.

    The horse who stood out for me is the medium open winner Mount St John Freestyle. She has such quality for the future.

    New structure for next year

    The standard across all the levels is getting higher. You used to think that with 70% you’ve got yourself a national title, but now in some of the classes you wouldn’t be in the top 15.

    This is the last national championships held under the current British Dressage (BD) rules, and it will be interesting to see the effect of the new structure next year. The silver section will put quite a few restricted riders against current open riders, and the new rules will also bring some top riders, who haven’t been able to compete below medium to date, back down the levels with young horses. It will also open doors for those professionals whose business is based around younger horses — the current restrictions have impacted upon quite a few riders in this way.

    Rideability is paramount

    The young horse classes were strong and it was nice to have a test rider from abroad as they have objective views on these horses.

    Now only the top six go forward to the second day’s judging, I’d like to see them put a bit more emphasis on the rideability. It would be nice to see all six ridden by the test judge with running commentary, which would give greater insight to the public. The reason is that top young horses are bred; grand prix horses are trained. You need the view from the ground on type and quality, but for prospective advanced horses, rideability is very important. That’s the feeling that we all depend on when we’re looking for a future grand prix horse.

    We had two horses who both placed fifth in the finals. I’m very proud of them, and happy they’re the ones I’m taking home.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 24 September 2015