Katie Jerram: Learning from dressage’s world number 1 [H&H VIP]

  • Competitors prioritise shows which offer Horse of the Year Show [HOYS] qualifiers, so it’s sad that South of England lost out on those for hunters. This is one of our most successful and prestigious shows and its main ring is one of the best you can ride in.

    The decision on where qualifiers are allocated is down to HOYS itself and South of England had plenty on offer in other classes, so hopefully this was a one-off. I felt sorry for the South of England Agricultural Society, which worked hard to produce going that was far better than at many other venues.

    This show is one of the dwindling numbers of proper country shows and the showground hosts the South of England hound show. I hope HOYS organisers will put it back on the list when planning next year’s schedule.

    A second career?

    Providing a show horse for dressage star Charlotte Dujardin to ride for an H&H feature [26 June issue] gave a fantastic insight into Charlotte’s approach when assessing a horse. It also showed that successful dressage riders and horses have more in common with their showing counterparts than some might think.

    Charlotte started her career as a show pony rider and I wonder if that early ability to grab a judge’s attention helped when she changed disciplines. I took Bronte, a large riding horse who was bred for dressage, and am now wondering if the mare should have 2 careers.

    Some riders get on a horse with the attitude that it has to adapt to the way they ride from the start. Charlotte asked how Bronte was ridden and started off within those parameters.

    There’s often a “them and us” relationship between the disciplines, though working hunter specialist Louise Bell is a notable example — she has achieved fantastic results in the showring and the dressage arena.

    I hope the feature has inspired more showing riders, especially younger ones, to have a go at dressage.

    Some talk as if riding a prelim or novice test is incredibly difficult. But when you bring it down to basics, you’re asking a horse to walk, trot and canter in the right place at the right time — and you don’t have to worry about other riders getting too close or cutting you up!

    Looking back through early show reports in H&H, several hack riders said they had spent the winter doing dressage. Another incentive is that riding a dressage test shows the areas you need to work on at home.

    My time with Charlotte was a pleasure and an education. My 5 days in a classroom taking my certificate of professional competence [CPC] in horsebox driving were an education [comment, 19 June], but I’m not so sure about the pleasure!

    Everyone who drives horses as part of their living must have a CPC by September. When I mentioned this in my last column, a lot of people said it was the first they had heard about the September deadline.

    My course provider said that he and many others were nearly booked up, so if you need a CPC, don’t hang about. If you aren’t sure, find out rather than risk prosecution.

    Minimising risks

    The horseworld has been shocked by the death of two eventing ridersBenjamin Winter and Jordan McDonald [news, 19 June]. It’s a reminder that we aren’t infallible and horses aren’t machines.

    While we must minimise risks, we’re never going to eliminate them. I hope eventing won’t be vilified as a sport and that riders won’t be put off.

    Fatal accidents to riders are horrifying but rare and injuries are just as likely to happen when you’re handling a horse you know well as when you’re riding. One of my team has a black eye incurred when removing a horse’s bandages. The horse brought his knee up sharply and caught him on the cheek: a reminder that routine tasks can catch us out in a painful way.

    ➤ This is my last column under the auspices of H&H showing editor Nicola Jane Swinney, who left this week. It’s been a delight and an education working with her. I wish her luck and hope she’ll maintain her links with the showing world.

    This column was first published in Horse & Hound (3 July, 2014)