John Bowen: Dressage judges should use the range of marks *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    IN all my years of coaching, Burghley this year was the first time I’ve watched every test at a three-day event and found it an interesting — and pleasurable — experience.

    I was commentating for Burghley Horse Trials Radio alongside Bobby Hayler and we thought the overall standard of riding and execution of the test was strong. There were fewer tension-related issues than I expected in this atmosphere, which suggests the training has improved in recent years.

    The judging seemed balanced, bar obvious differences attributable to where they were sitting. No one was out on a tangent.

    However, the range of marks could have been better used — riders had to work very hard to get high marks. We had a good view from our commentary point, as well as a monitor facing down the centre line, and the judges seemed to be holding back a bit. They weren’t marking up the really good quality work — of which we saw plenty — and seemed to be looking for something more. There was the odd nine, but not as many as were deserved.

    Similarly, sometimes they didn’t go low enough on the marks when there were obvious problems within the test.

    Out of the safe zone

    The first rider who really caught my eye for riding confidently and boldly, rather than hiding in the safe zone, was Tom Rowland. There were mistakes and technical areas he needs to improve, but his attitude was very positive.

    From a technical point of view, the best-executed test came from Andreas Dibowski. If he had been on a more naturally athletic, flamboyant horse, he would have been in the lead. Every transition was beautifully presented, the horse was through in the frame and had super balance. Similarly, Ben Way did a great job — he made the most of his horse and rode a technically correct test.

    It was a shame the judges did not reward the work of these two because of the horses’ lack of natural athleticism. There is a mark for paces, and a horse who isn’t naturally gifted but shows technical correctness shouldn’t be marked down elsewhere.

    Ciaran Glynn — who I know from my time coaching the Irish under-21 teams — rode a very good test and there is a lot more to come from him and November Night.

    Sarah Bullimore stepped up to the mark and rode a very accomplished and positive test on a horse who hasn’t always been straightforward.

    Other riders who I felt were worthy of note were Willa Newton, whose riding has matured enormously and who is one to watch, and Emilie Chandler, who rode very well on her lovely horse, Coopers Law. Hazel Towers’ Simply Clover did some nice work and had a pleasing attitude. She just needs to develop a bit more.

    Mark Todd rode a really classy test on Kiltubrid Rhapsody and deserved to lead. There were no weaknesses in the work and he presented it well. Bobby and I felt Oliver Townend’s second horse, Cooley SRS, did a better test than his first, MHS King Joules, and we were surprised he didn’t gain more marks.

    Having walked the cross-country course, and discussed it with Jeanette Brakewell, with whom I’ve worked for many years, I did feel there were some very brave riders choosing Burghley as their first four-star. It’s definitely not all about the dressage here!

    Ref Horse & Hound; 6 September 2018