What a show Olympia, the London International Horse Show, was. It was a very British affair for a World Cup qualifier, but it was a real celebration of the best our nation has to offer with some special guests — notably Germany’s Frederic Wandres with the British-bred Duke Of Britain — giving everyone a run for their money.
The short grand prix rode much better then last year. I’m glad the canter zig-zag was included, as it’s a key test of balance, and that the very difficult trot half-passes, the ultimate test of suppleness, have remained. Having the one tempi changes in between the pirouettes tests straightness and control, as the rider needs ultimate collection for the pirouettes but must be brave to ride forward for the changes up the centre line in between. Take this as a salutary reminder to all to practise riding plenty of transitions with horses of all levels in the new year.
Having only one attempt at each of the movements — barring the piaffe and passage — gives this test more of a sense of being “sh*t or bust”. There was less opportunity to show off a big walk on the very short line, but it was worth more in terms of the percentage than in the usual grand prix, so it’s a different game mathematically, and will suit certain horses but not others. Perhaps having a horse for the World Cup series will become like having an event horse that specialises in the Event Rider Masters series.I enjoyed the classical “flow” of the short grand prix, and feel the challenges in the transitions create a different dimension. This fast-paced test works best simply as a qualifier — and I liked it. The show had a Strictly Come Dancing feel, with the live scoring and interviews with riders in the arena providing great entertainment for the spectators.
Keeping it cool
Olympia is never an easy arena with a small warm-up area and a huge atmosphere, and although some at the back end of the field were affected by this, the top combinations took it in their stride.
Lottie Fry was cool and classy on the Van Olst-owned and bred stallion Everdale, with fabulous modern music befitting this young combination. This horse is used to doing the big stallion shows in the Netherlands so he coped well, as did Louise Bell’s Into The Blue, due to his former experience of being a working hunter champion.
Both these horses appeared to revel in the atmosphere, while Lara Butler and Rubin Al Asad simply looked like best friends dancing in true harmony to Dire Straits.
Vocals featured throughout the music programmes, and they mostly added to the performances and were enjoyed by the audience. This trend will continue — it helps involve the crowd, and the old karaoke-style Muzak, which was an assault on the eardrums, appears to be left in the past where it belongs.
Santa to the rescue
Father Christmas saved the day with the Olympia finale when the computerised scoring system went down with three crucial scores left to come in. But the result was never in doubt with Charlotte and Mount St John Freestyle out in front, and it was fabulous to see so many Brits scoring over 80%.
The unique atmosphere of Olympia truly brought home the magic of Christmas.
Ref Horse & Hound; 27 December 2019