Anna Ross: ‘Changes are afoot – and I’m glad to hear it’


  • The British Dressage (BD) AGM was broadcast live from the High Profile show at Aintree, which is well worth a visit for riders of all levels. It’s an iconic setting, with great facilities and you get a good bit of adrenaline hacking through the racecourse to the well-decorated arena. There was a great atmosphere on gala night.

    Changes are afoot with new tests on the way for July next year. I’m looking forward to these, as some of the current tests were in use at the start of my career. I’m pleased to hear some will have the paces mark co-efficient reduced as collective marks make no sense to me, equating to double counting, and were dropped by the FEI years ago. I’m also glad the number of tests is going to be capped at six per level – the system needed simplifying.

    On that note, Derek Pullem has been voted the new sports operations director, vowing to simplify the silver section. I would have thought rewriting War and Peace in Gujarati would be an easier task. A noble cause indeed, but may the force be with him in that particular minefield.

    On the front line

    I thought that stewards and the provision of support for them might have been highlighted more in the welfare presentation, as they’re on the front line of the sport, overseeing the warm-up areas and tack checks.

    I was reminded of how multi-skilled they are when one of my pupils paid a visit to the astronauts, landing with a thump in the warm-up arena that could be heard on the live stream next door. As she lay grunting on Aintree’s excellent arena surface I was relieved to see steward extraordinaire Lynne Campbell approaching. Lynne is a veritable goddess of first aid and presents courses on the topic countrywide.

    Staying up-to-date with first aid is essential as a trainer – but it’s probably best not to fall off in lessons with me. In times of stress, my first thought defaults to a flashback from the 1980s film Airplane, in which a passenger performed an emergency tracheotomy with a biro!

    Fortunately for the rider, Lynne picked up the pieces as I tended to the horse – who was performing a lovely collected canter on the concrete pathway, demonstrating exactly why a warmblood will never win the Grand National.

    The youth classes were well supported with new combinations finding their groove. The stallion Nymphenburg’s First Ampere and Isobel Lickley caught my eye, winning the young rider team test. What a horse he is, with three high-quality gaits and a super rider aboard as well – definitely one to watch for next year.

    Some former pony team members were making the switch to horses look smooth sailing, too. Aintree is a fantastic venue and it would be great to have an international there.

    Denmark in contention for Paris

    Every four years in the autumn before the Olympics top horses change hands. New ownership has to be registered to the country they would represent before 15 January to be eligible.

    The Danish team have gained a leading contender as Mount St John Freestyle, formerly competed on British teams by Charlotte Dujardin, has moved to Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour. She’ll be a strong iron in Denmark’s fire, and it will make for an even more competitive team event.

    Meanwhile, there has been a social media outcry as Cathrine’s former Olympic ride Bohemian was put up for auction by his owners Sporthorse Galleria. They quickly switched this to a private sale following much criticism about the suitability of this type of sale for a top horse.

    There’s no doubt that these Olympic mounts are a valuable asset for aspiring competitors, as at this late stage, for those without horsepower, dreams have to be bought not made.

    Riders setting themselves up for the future without deep pockets have to gamble more, buy young and play the long game. Mount St John Freestyle is a great example. She was bought as a foal and brought up to championship team level by her owner, Emma Blundell, and Charlotte Dujardin.

    ● How do you feel about the changes at BD? Write to us at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 9 November, 2023

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