Anna Ross: ‘Let’s get behind our British Olympic teams’


  • British grand prix dressage rider and trainer Anna Ross on what it takes to be selected for a team slot and ideas for revamped classes

    The British Olympic dressage team has been announced and what a team we have. The selectors have had it easy as the highest-scoring combinations have clearly been Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Lottie Fry and Becky Moody.

    Congratulations also to our youth teams who have been working their socks off, with some doing their school exams alongside competing to earn their team places at the European Championships. They can often be found swotting in between tests and even doing exams online in between competitions.

    Most of the under-25 team are starting out as young professionals and affording time away from earning their living can be a juggling act.

    It’s also important to remember that our teams are not just about the three or four riders selected but also the support staff, parents, owners and breeders. It’s great to see grooms being acknowledged on the big screens for the vital role they play.

    Let’s get behind our teams – it’s easy to sit back and criticise but it’s way more fun to support. I’m ready to wave my flag!

    What holds you back?

    It’s a tough reality that only three people per nation will ride at the Olympics every four years. Stars have to align, the horses have to stay sound and the riders remain fit. All equestrian goals have to be a little flexible.

    As Mike Tyson said: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” – sometimes working with horses can feel like a series of punches, especially when it comes to injuries.

    Physical fitness is a given to ride at the top level but mental fitness can be harder to develop, with the inevitable ups and downs of the sport. Fear of failure and other people’s criticism affects a lot of people’s efforts. Goal setting is key and the end of a season is a good time to think – what really holds you back?

    Prize money

    There’s lots of moaning about the lack of prize money in dressage so it’s great news that at next year’s Wellington International, run by David Sheerin, Nirvana Spa will be sponsoring a prize of more than £2,000 on the Friday night of the gala evening, which attracted more than 500 spectators this year.

    At the moment it’s a feature prix st georges music class. The question is, what would the membership and riders like to support? The venue would like to showcase great riders who fall outside the World Class Podium Programme. Great riders like Davy Harvey, Eilidh Grant and this year’s worthy winner Sara-Jane Lanning have been mentioned as the target demographic.

    Thoughts that have been bandied around so far include an advanced medium freestyle so riders could bring their up-and-coming stars without clashing with the international. A joker class with unique rules or a contest where an able-bodied international rider and para-athlete compete as a team are also in the mix.

    Wellington Riding and my own Elite Dressage will be running polls on social media to choose so please keep an eye out and help make this top UK show even better with your suggestions.

    I’ve noticed some riders making use of the rule that allows dark breeches in competition and I’m happy to confirm the world has not ended.

    A much more alarming trend in my eyes appears to be the return of the “fishing rod” or very long whip. There is no more terrifying a sight on a hot horse like my Holly than somebody bearing down on you with one of those stuck out at a right angle!

    Riders’ lives have changed however since the invention of the phone pocket on the thigh of the breeches. The new innovation I predict will be the bra pocket for all those training online.

    I teach online lessons every day six days a week and for those without a phone pocket on a hot day, it’s become the secure place of choice for the lady rider. I don’t ask the guys where they put theirs!

    ● Do you have an idea for a new class or innovation in dressage? Write to us at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, for the chance for your letter to appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 4 July

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