Anna Ross: ‘Championship experience is everything, while grooms deserve better’


  • Top British grand prix dressage rider and trainer Anna Ross on championships of all levels, and why grooms deserve better

    CHAMPIONSHIP fever has hit us. As well as the seniors at the dressage World Championships, it’s been brilliant to see the pony, junior and young riders do so well.

    Their success has been built on years of solid foundations, as championship experience never goes to waste. Many of today’s team members are trained by former team members who, although they may not be medallists, have used their experiences to hone the next generation’s skills.

    The cutest photo from the junior and young rider European Championships must be the one Britain’s Rebecca Bell posted on Instagram, of Myles Graham and herself, eight years apart, as medallists and supporters for each other. The message has been sent to the top teams; the British team is coming for the top spots.

    Grooms deserve better

    IT’S a travelling circus at this time of year – a quick turnaround to head to the senior dressage World Championships. Many of the same people are seen again with different team T-shirts, as riders or trainers of different nations.

    Packing skills and knowing which kit you’ve sent with which lorry becomes essential. God forbid the Irish team T-shirt ends up in the Canadian truck halfway across the world.

    I was cheered on entering the World Championships at Herning to see a huge banner “Grooms – our heroes”, but was then disappointed to discover the grooms’ accommodation was old caravans, shared with a stranger, without privacy or running water.

    Grooms are skilled professionals, the custodians of millions of pounds’ worth of horses, as well as the hopes and dreams of the riders. Their nations and venues should offer the best they can, not the least they can get away with.

    Everything else in Herning is excellent: big stables, great catering, a beautifully dressed arena and the volunteers couldn’t be more helpful. It was great to see our regular British stewards in key roles around the venue, as recognition of what we already knew – they are among the best in the world.

    “Hungry for more”

    THERE was a huge mix of nationalities across the board at the dressage World Championships, with 34 countries represented by 93 riders in the grand prix. This diversity is great for the sport. ln order for international dressage to survive and grow, we need global approval that we have horse-friendly sport at the highest levels.

    Alex Baker, 26, who arrived in our stables seven years ago as an apprentice competing at elementary silver, represented Ireland in Herning on her senior team debut.

    Alex has backed all our young horses at Elite Dressage for years – but we did stand her down from that role before these championships to increase her chances of making it here in one piece. She rode a great test with Dutchman, achieving close to her personal-best score, and the experience has left her hungry for more.

    Our future is bright

    IT was such a close competition for the team medals and it was impossible to call it for the teams until the very last rider. Gareth Hughes was unfortunate in that the crowd, thrilled with his test, started clapping before he finished. A distracted Briolinca piaffed through the last halt, losing precious points.

    The enthusiasm is great, but perhaps signs around the venue and the commentary could politely suggest the crowd wait until the final halt to clap to prevent this in future?

    Charlotte Dujardin then kept us in contention with an amazing plus-77%. And there’s even more to come from the gorgeous Imhotep in future years.

    Watching on the big screen from the warm-up raised the first cheer from the riders as Lottie Fry and Glamourdale delivered an incredible grand prix to bring home the team silver medal. With these up-and-coming horses, the future is bright for the British Equestrian dressage team.

    Roll on Paris 2024!

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 11 August

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