We saw some lovely tests, but even the best horses showed tension in that arena. All the tests had mistakes where the competitors had to ride more defensively than normal. Sometimes a bigger arena is easier, because horses are further from the crowds and the noise.
The cold and wet on the first day caused tension too, and a few horses lost rhythm in the lateral work, perhaps due to the soggy ground.
But by and large the standard is getting better and better, even among the less experienced riders.
The extended walk and the transition into the medium walk happened towards the covered stand. It was difficult for riders to get the horses to step through into the contact.We saw few horses with a good overtrack really reach in the extended walk and then there was tension as riders picked them up again.
The half-pirouette is tricky — it’s one mark for the transition to walk, the walk, the pirouette itself and the transition to trot. In the half-pirouette, we look for the horse to maintain the bend, engagement, activity and walk rhythm as it turns around the hindleg. Most horses stepped out or got stuck behind, lost the walk rhythm or the bend. A couple did it well — then cantered out of it.
The young Finn Elmo Jankari surprised and impressed me. He sat well and his ride Duchess Desiree had good movement, although she was against the hand at times.
I gave my first ever 10 for Sandra Auffarth’s last centre line — the horse’s sophisticated carriage (balance) and quality of canter deserved it. She looked dead straight to me down the centre line and into halt, although judge at E Alain James said one hindleg was a fraction out behind. That’s why you have three judges, in different places.
First published in H&H magazine on Thursday 4 September