Anna Ross: ‘Emerging dressage nations need a voice, too’


  • British international grand prix dressage rider Anna Ross discusses fulfilling Olympic aims, and prize-givings with camels

    I’VE been reflecting on the proposals put forward by the International Dressage Riders Club, as discussed by Carl Hester in his column last month (3 February). These include suggesting a return to four riders on Olympic teams (which would mean fewer nations in the competition) and giving the current strongest nations more influence in decisions regarding the sport.

    These proposals could benefit those nations that are already successful, but the Olympics as a movement has a higher purpose than simply excellence and winning medals. It builds its activities to promote culture and education, aiming to unite the world through sport and participation.

    The International Olympic Committee approved a change to their motto only last year, adding the word “together” after “faster, higher, stronger”.

    In reducing the voices of emerging nations, there is a risk that equestrianism could become less reflective of the values of togetherness, diversity and equality.

    Our “non-horsey” friends’ views, represented by the emerging nations, could provide a useful window as to how the rest of the world sees our sport. Progress rarely arises from an echo chamber and without their input, we could miss perspectives that help us maintain the social licence to compete. It is natural that nations not yet competing in equestrianism might like to retain the option to do so in the future, thus voting for teams of three.

    The Olympic dream remains a magnet, opening the sport to a worldwide customer base. If deprived of this goal, the sport would be poorer both culturally and financially. I’ve been shortlisted to ride on Olympic teams and coached both emerging and already competitive nations at the Olympics, so I understand the power of the dream.

    Having three on a team shortens the odds of going as a British rider, but the success of British dressage teams in recent years has been inspirational – surely we can share this goal with aspiring nations?

    At the Europeans and dressage World Championships, I hope we can set our own agendas showcasing excellence in equestrianism. Perhaps there is room for an event along the lines of showjumping’s Global Champions Tour, or a separate event in which the top 60 in the world rankings, regardless of nationality, could compete.

    This could be run as a private entity and demonstrate the very top of the sport without the constrictions of the Olympic ethos or any risk to our inclusion.

    Tandem parachute jump anyone?

    I WAS a bit sad to see that there will be no mounted prize-givings at the Winter Dressage Championships this year. Hopefully, British Dressage will reinstate them. I know they can be a bit hairy, but to exclude our equine partners from prize-givings seems to go against the grain – they are the stars of the show and should be celebrated.

    Or perhaps we should be grateful; it can go the other way. In Germany years ago, I was second in a class where such was the determination to provide a spectacle that the winner was compelled to do a tandem parachute jump, landing in the main arena to collect her prize. Meanwhile in Hagen, camels have previously been used for prize-givings!

    The constrictions of the tunnel at Hartpury are tricky – I nearly bulldozed over one of our top judges coming out of the masterclass one year. I flashed past close enough to see all the sixes stored up behind her eyes for the next class that I was due to compete in.

    Later in the prize-giving, convinced I’d preserved my anonymity, I accepted my rosette with a gracious smile, but it was wiped off my face as she enquired in icy tones, “Have you got that bloody horse under control yet?”

    ● Do you think mounted prize-givings should remain at championship shows? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 24 March

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