Anna Ross: Charlotte Dujardin has set a new standard for British riders to chase *H&H Plus*

  • In her latest exclusive H&H column, Anna reflects on Charlotte Dujardin’s challengers, multitasking mares and innovative solutions to no showers at stay away shows...

    BACK in the day, when I competed at the World Young Horse Championships in Verden, they played themed music for every nation. I had music from James Bond each time and I thought how nice and appropriate it was, that is until I noticed that when the Germans rode, their song was always the Bee Gees’ You Win Again.

    In 2012, Britain’s Olympic gold medal changed all that, and dressage fans have since enjoyed watching the success of our nation as medal contenders – and winners. Charlotte Dujardin’s individual successes have set a new standard for British riders, and this is the case at national shows as well as international, with other riders knowing they have to take more risk to give her a run for her money.

    Happily, more riders are coming through to do just this. At the recent Wellington Premier League, Tom Goode and Dior gave good chase with an outstanding performance to finish only 2% behind Charlotte’s second-placed Florentina in the grand prix. Alice Oppenheimer also had a good go on the prix st georges gala night, scoring 77% for second to Charlotte’s win on 79%.

    My head rider Beth Bainbridge had instructions to ride my own mare, Habouche (pictured top schooling at home in early 2019), for all the nines that night – we knew Charlotte certainly wouldn’t be riding for a seven. Some risks came off, some didn’t for just under 74%, but it was such good fun with the handbrake off and the gala night crowd absolutely loved it.

    In any sport when one person tends to dominate, inevitably we don’t hear so much about the chasing group. But often it’s the back story that brings their journeys to life for dressage fans and makes the sport relatable.

    Tom’s horse Dior was bought cheaply as a foal and he’s trained him through the levels himself while working as long-term rider for Olympian Emile Faurie. Alice’s mother, Sarah, bred Headmore Dionysus, who has two full siblings now at grand prix.

    Meanwhile, the lack of a full-size arena hasn’t stopped Steph Croxford training several horses to international grand prix level. As her recent Facebook post revealed, she practises the canter zig-zag up a grassy track with a steep slope. And mother and daughter combination Zoe Sopp and Holly Colgate-Cooke fulfilled a dream to both compete alongside one another in the gala night at Wellington.

    Mares make their mark

    GOOD mares are really starting to dominate in competitions worldwide, and any previous stigma against buying and competing mares is waning.

    There are the mares that dominate at the very top of the sport internationally, such as Charlotte’s Mount St John Freestyle and Isabell Werth’s Bella Rose, while at Wellington, mares Helga (Matt Frost), Habouche (Beth Bainbridge) and Hawtins Soave (Lucinda Elliott), among others, all had top-three placings in the small tour classes.

    The technology that now allows us to breed from the best and healthiest proven mares can only benefit future generations.

    Our Elite Dressage mares Newton Domino and Tiger won the grand prix at Hickstead Premier League and the international five-year-old classes at Somerford and Wellington, only days after being inseminated. Both gave us embryos just days after their wins, too.

    Shower solutions

    The news of there being no shower facilities at the Winter Dressage Championships at Hartpury due to Covid-19 restrictions has been greeted with dismay by those not blessed with palatial bathrooms in their trucks. Sales of wet wipes in Ledbury could be through the roof.

    Suggestions have been flooding in by the resourceful on Facebook, with the best idea involving a mobile horse shower, a giant trug bucket and a bikini. A quick finish with a squirt of mane and tail conditioner will mean riders are just as fresh as their horses at these championships.

    Let’s just pray the weather is kind!


    This exclusive column will also be available to read in this Thursday’s Horse & Hound magazine.

    Do you agree with Anna? Let us know your thoughts by emailing hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to feature in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine and possibly win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

    You may also be interested in…