Carl Hester: ‘This was a Christmas miracle’ *H&H Plus*


  • Carl Hester reflects on a very special national championships in tough times

    My first thought when Isabell Werth asked me if I’d like to be on the board of the International Dressage Riders Club was, “Oh no, this is one I won’t be able to wriggle out of.” Anyone who knows Isabell knows she doesn’t take no for an answer. On reflection, I feel she has chosen people from a wide range of countries and ideas, and some very strong personalities. I look forward to some clashes!

    A very experienced group of people, some with over 30 years in the sport, will take over after the hard work Wayne Channon and Kyra Kyrklund have put into the club. The difficulty has been getting riders to join, be aware and be part of the decision-making process.

    The excuse of too much riding and teaching isn’t good enough. It’s very easy when competing not to be aware of rule changes and the whys and hows behind them. They can suddenly be sprung upon riders, causing uproar. So join, please, as we really want to hear your views. Details are on the website at idrc.me

    “Our greatest gift”

    All involved in the National Grand Prix Championships deserve a huge round of applause – Rob and Lisa LeMieux for upholding the sponsorship, British Dressage and of course Hartpury and all their wonderful volunteers.

    The arena was beautifully decorated, complete with Christmas tree and the fun addition of Covid-safe rider interviews in “Santa’s grotto”.

    Despite the small audience – only two people were allowed per horse – the Hartpury arena still creates an atmosphere and some horses react quite strongly. It is so interesting how horses express themselves, with some holding their breath and some becoming explosive.

    I have a special mention for the riders whose unwelcome “upgrade” to tier four meant they couldn’t take part. It was a Christmas miracle for those of us who were able to go.

    Live-streaming is our greatest gift in these times, but it can be problematic as it was during the grand prix. Anyone out there on the technical side please put your hand up – it would be great to get these glitches fixed.

    It was good though that Horse & Country TV then made the coverage free to view on demand until the end of 2020. Viewers at home and abroad were able to see the very best of British, and the exciting talent we have for next year’s Olympics and European Championships.

    Showing promise

    There was some really good riding in a class ranging from gold medallists to young riders. Although their scores might not yet reflect what they’re capable of, the under-25 riders showed maturity and so much promise in their riding, which is really exciting.

    What might have been a first for a national grand prix championship was our two pregnant ladies, Hayley Watson-Greaves and Nikki Barker. I did think when Hayley did her fantastic extended trot to piaffe, her baby might have thought it was being induced, but luckily no early onset of labour followed. Well done those girls.

    That Charlotte took the title of national champion was totally right. Amazingly, she’s only won it once before, five years ago on Barolo. Charlotte produced a masterclass in confidence-giving to both her horses, especially Gio who, at nine, needs his hand holding.

    I was over the moon with En Vogue. The mistake I made at the end of my freestyle was the exact same one I made nine years ago doing that test on Uthopia, which surely shows the psychological effect of something sticking in your head. It’s now in the floorplan.

    The dressage community is strong and thriving after an unimaginable year. Let’s hope we can be as supportive of each other in 2021 as we have been this year. Happy new year!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 31 December 2020

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