Anna Ross: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – or better still, gin and tonic *H&H Plus*


  • Anna Ross reflects on an entertaining festive show and looks ahead to 2021

    It’s nearly the end of the world’s weirdest year. Who could have guessed that air kissing – something that the dressage community have been practising for decades – would become a requirement?

    The breaking news at the recent High Profile show at Keysoe was that Simon Bates, who has developed the centre from a livery yard to one of the country’s leading venues, has sold it. He will be missed. We have had a lot of fun competing at Keysoe over the past 20 years, and during the pandemic Simon has managed to keep providing shows in a calendar fraught with cancellations.

    While wishing Simon and his family the very best of luck going forward, I think most competitors would support the ceremonial burning of his sound system as it glitched throughout the show, along with the Keysoe collection of Christmas blow-up toys adorning the gallery.

    They caused my grand prix ride Newton Domino quite some consternation.

    “Ho ho bloody ho,” I thought, as she reversed and twirled around the arena, eyes bulging at Santa. I cunningly manoeuvred her into the exact spot that we departed the piaffe in an attempt to salvage the transition mark out of it, ricocheting her valiantly into passage, but this effort appeared to cause the judges great amusement rather than the desired admiration for my ingenuity.

    Comedy gold continued in my freestyle test the following day, when the music system failed several times and I resorted to singing it myself with a little help from my friends. In the end, my head rider Beth Bainbridge played my old music from 2007 down the microphone from my phone, to a background of an irate Simon expressing his feelings about the system failure in the style of Gordon Ramsey, while he tried his best to get it going for the next competitor.

    The Christmas dressage pantomime continued outside as Steph Taylor, having ridden some lovely tests in the indoor school, showed supreme dexterity when her younger horse whipped around before the bell went and she fell off, Eskimo rolled in one superhuman move and sprang back on, all within about 10 milliseconds. There was little sympathy from her entourage who were roaring with laughter before she even landed and had no inhibitions whatsoever about broadcasting the video on Instagram.

    Exciting pairs

    It was great to see horsepower ramping up among under-25 riders. Successful pony team rider Isobel Lickley has secured the ride on the successful KWPN stallion Lord Leatherdale, and although a new partnership, they looked a very exciting combination.

    Under-25 European Championship team member Ellie McCarthy and her stunning gelding Londero Von Worrenberg were outstanding at inter II with 75% from one judge and more to come. Both these high-quality horses were imported, but it was good to see that five horses out of 22 in the grand prix were bred in the UK.

    Alice Oppenheimer rode two stunning siblings from Headmore Stud, Daniel Watson competed his own lovely Aster Butterfly, Dane Rawlins bred the talented Espoire and I rode Newton Domino who was born in Devon.

    A positive step

    Throughout the pandemic many lessons have been learnt, and of course Zoom training has been a revelation. Online streaming of the major shows has been a positive step, too, and this will continue post-pandemic.

    We have much to look forward to: the National Grand Prix Championship later in December and strong combinations to support at the Olympics and European Championships next year. This year has made us all appreciate what a great sport we have and how much we miss it when we can’t play.

    The main lesson learned in 2020? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – or better still, gin and tonic.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 17 December 2020

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