Carl Hester: ‘Can we recreate Aachen in Britain?’


  • Carl Hester on a potential world-class venue in England, and equestrians supporting Ukraine

    AT Keysoe CDI, our first home international of the year, I had the chance to catch up with Sarah Stoute, the new owner of the venue with her husband Richard. They have ambitious plans for Keysoe’s future as a world-class venue. Already the facilities are exceptional, and the aim is to provide a stress-free and welcoming experience for all.

    The scope of competition available – from clear-round jumping evenings to internationals and even trials for the Shetland Pony Grand National – is so wide-ranging that there is something for everyone from the fun rider to the team hopeful. Sarah’s vision is for even more. There are plans for a purpose-built therapy centre for both children and adults to benefit from being around horses.

    Could we see a “British Aachen” take shape? I’ve been hearing about CHIO Aachen’s Campus Programme of Excellence, with Isabell Werth as head coach for dressage and Jos Lansink heading the showjumping coaching initiative. The aim is to equip selected young talented riders with the toolbox needed to gain footholds at the top of the international stage.

    Perhaps another idea for Keysoe, Sarah?

    Promising scores

    IT was good to see some of our pony, junior and young rider combinations at Keysoe earning the sort of higher scores that could take them to success at European Championship level. In the past, the standard hasn’t always been good enough to warrant team representation, but these scores look to reflect promising improvements.

    Meanwhile, this was En Vogue’s first show of the season, and I had my hands full. Considering he’d been to the Olympics and European Championships in 2021, I could be forgiven for presuming he’d be fairly settled in the calmer atmosphere of a UK show.

    I was proved wrong. I had to cope with a hot and nervous ride. Due to flooded fields, he’d been stabled more than normal in the run-up, which probably didn’t help.

    As I drove home at one in the morning, I reminded myself that it is only dressage. I continued to repeat this to myself until, 24 hours later, I felt a whole lot better.

    Pulling together

    NO soul can remain unmoved by the awful scenes unfolding every day in Ukraine. The desperate plight of citizens – especially women, children, and the elderly – is shocking to the core, as much as the bravery of the Ukrainian people is incredible.

    That the equestrian community across the world is pulling together to rescue and alleviate the suffering of people and animals is something we can all be proud of and do our bit to support.

    As I write, the British Equestrians for Ukraine Fund – set up by British Equestrian, the British Horse Society, World Horse Welfare and the British Equestrian Trade Association, united with member bodies – has received more than £100,000 in donations. The value of about £90,000 in feed and bedding has also been donated to help the valiant efforts of the Ukraine Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation.

    Thank you to all who have donated.

    In such desperate times, we can all be torn between helping animals and people, but doing our best to help as much as we can is all we can do. When all this started, I made the decision that my upcoming demo day would raise money for Ukraine aid efforts for horses and people. It has sold out, so thank you to everyone who is coming and supporting Ukraine.

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 31 March

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