Anna Ross: ‘It’s time for dressage to ditch the white breeches’


  • Anna Ross is an international grand prix dressage rider who has represented Britain on numerous occasions.

    Christmas is coming with its usual mixture of excitement, stress, interruption and, for those of us who are currently required to compete in white breeches, a deep fear of competing in January post-mince pies.

    I’ll admit I’m not a “Christmas person”. I’m an atheist, no fan of tradition and ritual, and I generally regard the festive season as an unwelcome interruption to my routine that can only be tolerated by having whisky on my breakfast yogurt throughout the month of December.

    However, there are many “traditions” I’d like to see changed in 2023…

    1, Walk pirouettes bring no one joy – I propose an amnesty on them for one year until everyone agrees what a good one looks like.

    2, People should stop talking in German accents to their horses. The British have won enough medals by now, for goodness sake, so why not adopt an Essex or Newcastle one? Much more on-trend.

    3, Cutting corners, riding single flying changes before X and making popping noises at the horse while turning onto the diagonal, then weakly running them forward with no transition at the end, should become punishable offences, in my view.

    4, Judges who turn on windscreen wipers or runners who flap test sheets when a young horse is within 20 metres of the car must be compelled to ride the following circuit on said horse.

    The end of white breeches?

    The rule I predict will be ditched in line with some other areas of equestrian sport is, drum roll… compulsory white breeches for competition. Traditionalists will not like this, but they have Christmas to occupy them, so hopefully they’ll be too busy hanging up baubles and arguing with their relatives to notice.

    In my opinion, this will not mean the beginning of the end for dressage sport as we know it. That end was already declared several times at the demise of top hats and introduction of half marks, so I’m confident the sport will survive the move forward, should British Dressage wish to follow the riding clubs and adopt it as a rule. I’ll bet my blow-up Santa they will.

    Don’t idolise the “old days”

    For those who declare on social media and elsewhere that we should aspire to the “old days” as everything was better and more correct then, I’ve taken the time to look at some old videos and I can confirm it wasn’t. I thought one video was pixellated as it was 40 years old, but then I realised that the horse just wasn’t on the bit.

    Breeding has developed over the years and horses are now more supple, powerful and athletic than ever. There is much we can learn from the past, though. Some of the freestyle floorplans we’ve seen were absolutely spectacular and the horsemanship skills exemplary. The legend that is Jennie Loriston-Clarke MBE completed the grand prix successfully under saddle at four Olympics, could ride it side-saddle and could also jump off and perform the programme again on long-reins.

    I might propose this as part of the assessment for the young professionals programme in 2023. Those skills say more about true horsemanship than setting up an Instagram account and filtering your face to look as flat as a pancake. Although, having tried and failed several times myself with Instagram filters, I’ll admit that is a skill in itself.

    Since there are 14 religious festivals between 1 and 31 December, I’d like to wish every reader happy holidays, rather than just happy Christmas, with all the joy and success and hope that a new year should bring.

    ● Do you think dark breeches should be allowed in affiliated competition? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com – please include your name, nearest town and county to be considered for inclusion on the letters page in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 15 December

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