Anna Ross: ‘The horses’ journey to Europe was far more straightforward than mine’


  • International grand prix dressage rider and trainer Anna Ross discusses the impact Brexit has had on travelling horses abroad

    I am currently on a happy high, having won three classes at the Crozet CDI in France with my own and Marcelo Tosi’s mare Habouche (Holly). This show is stunning, being situated near Geneva and surrounded by mountains, giving an incredible backdrop.

    Holly warmed up for Crozet by taking part in the demo at Elite Dressage’s annual open day, following her three embryo transfer foals into the arena, and was partnered by her three-year-old, just-backed daughter Dolly, who was ridden by Milo Johnston.

    The horses’ journey out to France was very straightforward, with only 13 minutes spent at customs with Anna Jesty, who was also competing, and Jess Ralton.

    My trip was less straightforward: two cancelled EasyJet flights, a car lost by the valet parking for five hours, followed by a broken-down train on the Eurotunnel. It meant an overnight drive across Europe and a dash into Crozet only 20 minutes before the trot-up. Suffice to say, Holly was a lot fresher than I was for the competition.

    When I arrived at the show, it seemed busy in the stables, but I realised it was Princess Sirivannavari of Thailand’s 30-strong entourage in our stable block. They all bowed when she dismounted; I suggested to my team that they did something similar, but disappointingly, I received a very different kind of salute.

    “Box-ticking exercises”

    Competing abroad is one of the most fun things to do as an international rider, as of course, by its definition, it involves travelling to another country. There are great opportunities to learn and see other top riders training and competing as well.

    There have been well-documented travel issues post-Brexit, but I have travelled with horses many times without issues in the past year. I advise using a reputable agent who double-checks your paperwork – having all the original documentation, rather than copies, is imperative for smooth sailing, and it is essential that all of the paperwork is in order. After all, by “Brexiting”, the British people chose to have much stricter border controls than previously.

    I have “Plan B” stops arranged either side of the port in case we are held up, so the horses don’t end up standing on the truck too long, but so far we haven’t needed them. We stay close to Dover the night before travel so if there is a delay, the horses are at the start of the journey, with stables close on the other side.

    Since Brexit, we don’t have our old freedoms to travel in quite the same way, and of course these additional box-ticking exercises have made travelling horses abroad more expensive. We’ve mitigated this to an extent by sharing more trips with friends, so far travelling with teams Hicks, Watson and Jesty.

    I’ve been surprised to see so much criticism of the French border control on social media – it’s as though the additional checks and paperwork now required are somehow their fault. Surely voters didn’t think that restrictions on movement would only work one way?

    Those who voted to leave the EU chose it and those who didn’t have to live with it. It does sadden me to think that the lifelong friendships, fun and opportunity that those of us – who have experienced pre-Brexit freedom to travel – have enjoyed could prove harder to come by for the young riders currently coming through the ranks.

    Even before Brexit, we had very few international riders who made the journey over to compete in the UK, as there are so many more shows in mainland Europe. Our show centres do a great job of making those competitions feel special, but it’s not the same as competing against new combinations from other countries. Even though foreign judges do come to us, at UK internationals it’s likely we will compete against the same people we have ridden against all year.

    Teamwork and cooperation have always been our superpowers as a species. By leaving the EU, we have opted out of the “team” we were previously in with our nearest neighbours and, therefore, it is understandable that things have changed. We could never have expected it to stay the same.

    • Do you agree with Anna? Share your thoughts and experiences around post-Brexit travel with us at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, in shops on Thursday 8 September

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