Michel Assouline: Competition has arrived [H&H VIP]

  • The sport of para dressage has exploded — the classes at these games were huge. We haven’t seen many of the competitors since the Paralympics. The difference in their teams’ standard is massive — they have high quality horses and they have more riders.

    But in Britain we still have a very strong team and we are lucky — other countries do not have the financial backing we do. They have problems recruiting riders too, whereas ours start out with the Riding for the Disabled and we consequently have a large pool of riders to choose from.

    The sport is also becoming more professional. A lot of riders own their horses now, or have owners — the days of the borrowed horse are over. Once the rider has the time to develop a long-term relationship with a horse, it works well and they are able to achieve their goals.

    With all these countries improving and catching up on our standard, what we need to do to secure future success is very simple. Firstly, competition riders need two horses. Horses are not machines — they get injured. It’s the rider who qualifies, not the horse, and riders are more likely to keep their place with back-up.

    Secondly, we need to maintain the depth of riders in Britain and have more riders than we need — we should always be able to put together two teams.

    There must be opportunity for new riders to come through, too, and that’s where World Class Development matters.

    Here, we have qualified for Rio, which was our main objective. We won team gold and individual gold and silver medals, yet some of our riders were disappointed. The riders are very competitive, they want to be the best and they want to win gold; we’ve been at the top for a long time, always unbeaten. Our job now is to maintain the quality. We knew the competition was catching up. Now they are here.