Mark Todd: no longer a dressage competition *H&H VIP*

  • It has been very positive for the sport this year that most of the big events haven’t been dressage competitions. We went through a phase a few years ago where the dressage was excessively influential, but for example at Badminton, Burghley, Rio and Boekelo, the jumping phases have played the biggest part in the end result.

    But discrepancies in dressage judging continued in Boekelo; for example, Lauren Kieffer, second after dressage, was placed first by the American judge and 35th by the Hungarian. One judge had Sidney Dufresne in second, another had him in 24th and the other in 37th. Surely that can’t be right?

    The whole issue of dressage judging in eventing needs to be looked at. We as riders are having to hone our skills ever further — are judges having the opportunity to do the same?

    It was one of the only dry Boekelos I can remember — it is unheard of not to have any rain all week! The ground there can walk firm to the first-time visitor but it is very sandy, so it can take a lot of rain, and when they don’t have rain it breaks up very easily and provides a good surface.

    Universal opinion of the course was that it was too twisty and lacked flow. It certainly wasn’t big. After many years on the current site, Boekelo is having to move its main arena for 2017, which will mean a new direction for the course and hopefully we can have some new inspiration and a new look to the track. Watching horses being pulled around tight turns didn’t make for good viewing — or riding.

    A year-round sport

    Some of those who didn’t have good dressage marks at Boekelo are rerouting to Strzegom in Poland next week — and quite a few of the German riders, for example, decided to go there instead of Boekelo. Strzegom has three-, two- and one-star classes — and of course it is the venue for next year’s Europeans. It’s a nice event, although a marathon journey from Britain.

    I’m finished, apart from Aldon, but for other riders Boekelo is the start of a manic end to the season, heading south for warmer weather, first to Pau and then Le Lion d’Angers.

    The seasons are getting longer and longer — you can compete up to three-star level in Europe in November, and I see that British Eventing are letting Aston-le-Walls run a fixture on the first weekend in November, which is after the clocks change.

    For the enthusiasts, it is turning into a 12-months-a-year sport. There are indoor cross-country events, like Stuttgart, Stockholm and Bordeaux; they are great fun, good money and you get well looked after. If you have a careful, quick horse it could be well worth your while having a go, and it can brighten up the winter months.

    I’m happy enough after a long year to have a bit of a rest in the winter. I’ve got an indoor school on my Christmas list, but I think Father Christmas is fairly unlikely to deliver it! But it is never that long before we start preparing the horses for next year’s early season events, and I seem to have a nice set of horses to compete at the higher levels, with any luck.

    But Boekelo is a great way to finish the year  and the Thursday night entertainment extravaganza is unique and not to be missed. Simple things, like having a place next to the stables where we can have a good coffee and a glass of wine, also make a big difference.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 13 October 2016