Anna Ross: ‘Talent alone is not enough to stay at the top in dressage’


  • The successful British grand prix rider, breeder and trainer reflects on what it takes to stay at the top of the sport and the recent influx of top horses into the British camp.

    I have just returned from Addington CDI, which is a venue dressage riders are thrilled to have back on the calendar. Addington has a “grand” feel about it and we all love riding there.

    There were some fabulous horses in the senior grand prix class. To have an Olympic bronze medallist in Gio and a world silver medallist in Vamos Amigos secured for Britain by the Pidgley family, and now ridden by Annabella Pidgley, is great for our country, as is having the Dutch stallion Indigro, ridden by Britain’s Andrew Gould.

    Individuals have varying views as to whether this influx of investment into the sport is positive or negative. There are many roads to Rome, after all, and Addington also proved it is entirely possible for a talented rider to bring a horse through from base level to international grand prix.

    Dressage is a long game, experience is a benefit and by working together, we can raise the game for everyone. Those without huge wealth may need to build businesses and sell horses to support their riding careers.

    Charlotte Dujardin sold Gio to the Pidgley family, and we recently sold a young horse to Fiona Bigwood. Paul Friday, Andrew Gould and Dan Watson – just to name a few – all have breeding programs, as do I.

    Offspring of my top mare Habouche and my former international grand prix mare Newton Domino have already been purchased by Dutch Olympic and British grand prix riders. As with riding, the good ones make running a business look easy, when often it is the opposite.

    Riding talent is nowhere near enough; it’s much harder to stay at the top of the sport than to get to it in the first place. Being a one-horse wonder is fun, but not a sustainable career. A business brain and plan will give a rider a chance to stay there.

    Social media can give a false impression of how difficult it is to make it in the equestrian industry, with everybody presenting their best life online.

    Take chances to learn

    Arrogance is expensive. Things that are freely available to everyone include dedication, humbleness, adequate fitness, willingness to learn, being on time, taking responsibility, being open to feedback, using common sense and making good plans.

    It was free to spectate at Addington, so the opportunities to learn were endless and well worth the petrol to get to the show. If you think you know it all already you are wasting chances to learn, and the smarter riders will take advantage of every available opportunity.

    It is really important to own your mistakes and take responsibility in this sport and I had to do just that at Addington.

    My ride Habouche (Holly) was as high as a kite to be at her first show of the season. She has been well-known for her high spirits over the years and I was over-careful in ensuring she did not go down the centre line demonstrating the “somersault with twist and pike”, meaning it took longer than the 45 seconds allowed for us to enter the arena. This mistake resulted in a penalty that cost me three placings.

    I have no problem with the rule; if competitors enter the arena willy-nilly, taking as much time as they wish, the show couldn’t run efficiently. I will have to teach Holly to buck faster!

    Get well soon Lisa

    Sadly, the show was overshadowed by a horrific accident during the trot-up, resulting in Lisa Marriott ending up in intensive care with severe injuries having been kicked by her horse. I know I speak for the whole dressage community in wishing Lisa the speediest of recoveries.

    ● Which horses and riders caught your eye at Addington CDI, and why? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 30 March

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