Laura Tomlinson: Are we wasting talented horses? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Firstly, I must thank H&H for the lovely cover photo of my daughter and me last week (16 August), which Annalisa was more than delighted with. Having had the best time at Pony Club mini camp last week, this topped the summer off.

    Our local Pony Club branch, the VWH, really know how to make first experiences count, from the iced buns at elevenses — which the parents seemed to look forward to at least as much as the children — to searching for sweets in the “fairy woods”. The mornings were packed with different activities and well timed, always finishing just before the children had had enough.

    It was appropriate that after H&H’s youth special issue last week, the British under-25 team won bronze at the European Championships.

    Britain’s Lottie Fry also won individual freestyle gold, so congratulations to our future stars. For Lottie, this follows winning the seven-year-old finals at the World Breeding Dressage Championships.

    Too much too soon?

    I decided to watch the other top combinations of the five-, six- and seven-year-old classes to assess for myself how these horses are being presented. Has this championship become a massive sales show?

    Carl Hester touched upon the subject last week of horses being overproduced and therefore not being seen later at grand prix.

    Compared with a few years ago, a lot has improved as far as outlines go — we see fewer tight necks. Yet I was certainly left feeling that I would not want one of my young horses competing in that competition.

    The quality of horses was amazing, but what worried me is the tempo at which some are ridden and the pace that many are showing as they fly around the corners into the next movement. Apparently, short sides are considered suitable for medium trot or medium canter, and shoulder-ins are meant to be on four tracks nowadays!

    I agree young horses should be ridden forwards, but many of these spectacular movers were being chased out of their natural rhythm. A little control and collection would look more impressive than speed.

    I believe, ridden with more care, more of these horses would stand a better chance of being seen at grand prix level rather than being physically or mentally broken.

    Part of the problem is that a lot of these horses are not being presented by riders who will take them through into the future, but by riders who specialise in young horses and are presenting the horse to maximise its value, or the value of its semen.

    In the top three of the three classes, all were stallions, except for one mare. Is this because people with spectacular geldings are taking more time as they have less pressure? Historically, though, successful geldings at this level are also overridden to achieve a big sale price.

    Many of these unbelievably talented stallions get shown at stallion shows, hyped up to look as spectacular as possible, and then must compete in young horse classes as well as covering as many mares as possible. It’s a business after all, but, as a grand prix rider, I can’t help but think, “What a waste!”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 23 August 2018