Anna Ross on sport returning, new concepts and hairy moments in the ring
IT was great to watch the most exciting weekend of dressage in a long time. With so many shows in the UK having been cancelled, our riders who are in Olympic contention attended the Hagen CDI4* – one of the biggest international shows in the calendar – and Opglabbeek CDI3* in Belgium.
Charlotte Dujardin dominated in Hagen with Gio and Mount St John Freestyle, while a new grand prix superstar emerged in stallion Glamourdale, beautifully ridden by Lottie Fry for 76% in their first-ever grand prix special.
The new concept of the special to music – supplied by the rider and played during the test but unjudged – is a terrific one. Lottie’s Robbie Williams music set the scene for this powerful stallion, and made their performance even more fun to watch.
We have to try out new concepts if we want to remain an Olympic sport and attract spectators and sponsors; this is a good step forward.
Especially exciting is that there is still much more to come from our top combinations, as some of the British horses had green mistakes in between many moments of brilliance. Of course, this is to be expected, and I’m sure it is mirrored all over the land in horses that have been confined to barracks.
But what a shame that the experienced combination of Emile Faurie and Dono Di Maggio were caught in a clerical nightmare in Calais, which prevented them competing in Belgium – despite having the correct paperwork. They were flying with high scores at the practice grand prix show held at Hartpury recently.
“Out of control”
I ALSO attended the practice show, held under strict Covid rules and organised by British Dressage (BD) to help mitigate the recent lack of arena experience.
My ride, Newton Domino, is still new to grand prix and as a combination we have missed out the “inter grades”. We’ve done three grands prix so far and Hartpury was a great opportunity to try out a few new tactics in the arena.
In my pre-test visualisation, recommended by all the top sport psychologists, I rode my two-time changes boldly forward on the diagonal towards the gate, with the hope of collecting at least an 8.5, and envisioned myself smugly cruising past the judge at C with a little give and retake of the reins to accentuate our brilliance and self-carriage.
However, it appears that fortune does not always favour the bold, as in reality an enthusiastic Domino responded with great vigour to my forward aids. She shot off across the arena towards the gateway, helpfully demonstrating to the steward that my trillion-pound ergonomic noseband was not too tight, and gnashing her teeth to prove that she was indeed 12, as per her passport.
On the plus side, I looked 10 years younger by the end of that diagonal as the G-force of the wind accentuated my cheekbones. Unfortunately, “out of control” was judge Peter Storr’s pertinent comment.
We did still manage a respectable score over 68% and benefited from the outing at our next show, scoring just under 70%. I hope BD keeps this concept of practice shows going; I’m sure it was instrumental in our great scores abroad.
A triumph for British breeding
BACK at home, Alice Oppenheimer and Headmore Dirubinio won the grand prix at Keysoe Premier League. The home-bred “Robin” looked every bit as quality as many of the horses at the international shows, and is a credit to his breeder, Alice’s mother Sarah.
With Brexit contributing to the increasing cost of buying horses from Europe, it’s fortuitous that British breeders have bred fantastic horses here using the best bloodlines over the past few years.
Olympic selection will go right down to the wire and the Wellington CDI next week will be a corker with our top combinations vying for a team place. Get the popcorn at the ready for a week of fantastic sport on British soil.
● Which top combinations have you enjoyed watching since sport returned? Write to email@example.com
This exclusive column can also be read in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 6 May
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