Carl Hester: ‘Will Tokyo still feel like an Olympics?’ *H&H Plus*


  • Carl Hester on Wellington CDI3*, team selection and a problem for owners

    HUGE congratulations to David Sheerin and the whole team at Wellington Riding for putting on a superb international show on home soil. Having ridden at the Wellington Premier League a couple of years ago, I was amazed to return and see how the venue has grown. There was great catering, wonderful viewing, a friendly atmosphere and excellent surfaces.

    When I compare the arena surfaces at our international shows in this country to many abroad, it strikes me how incredibly lucky we are. A great surface is everything when it comes to maintaining soundness and performance. David and his team really pulled the rabbit out of the hat at short notice, overcoming lots of challenges to get this great show on the road.

    The grand prix classes showed that the competition for our Olympic team places is really hotting up, and there is all to play for. And with Spencer Wilton on Super Nova II, and Laura Tomlinson’s number one ride, Rose Of Bavaria, not competing at Wellington for various reasons, it will be very exciting to see the scores achieved at the next two international shows, both in France: Compiègne next week and Le Mans in June.


    HOW quickly the Olympic Games has crept up on us – there are only five weeks to go before team selection. There will be some consolation for those combinations not selected, especially those with younger or less experienced horses, in September’s European Championships, due to be hosted in Hagen, Germany.

    I’m still coming to terms with the fact the Olympics in Japan are set to go ahead under the current circumstances. It seems bizarre to compete in a country that doesn’t want us there, which is the message we are getting from news reports at the moment. The trouble is that many of the British dressage squad might not get another chance at an Olympics.

    Maybe it won’t even feel like an Olympics without friends, family and spectators present. But nonetheless, Tokyo is set to go ahead and while it may end up being vastly different to previous Games, it is still the Olympics and we’ll go all out to try to bring home medals.


    A HUGE issue that we received news of at the beginning of what I’ll now call “Welli week” was the FEI’s announcement that only one owner per horse would be allowed to go to Tokyo.

    This, of course, affects not only dressage but all three equestrian disciplines. Many of our horses have multiple owners, as that’s the way we keep the rides and keep our top horses in this country.

    Owners are the lifeblood of equestrian sport and, just as it is for riders to ride there, to see your horse perform at an Olympics is the pinnacle and dream for owners and breeders alike.

    What if we ended up with some owners refusing to let their horse compete in Tokyo if they were not allowed to go? That is the worst-case scenario, of course, but this ruling also has huge implications for the future of equestrian sport.

    Let us hope therefore that the powers that be – the Tokyo organising committee, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the FEI and our national organising committees – not just here in Britain, but in Germany, the Netherlands and all the other leading equestrian nations, can work together on this.

    My hope is that the FEI and the IOC will listen to those lobbying to change this rule. It’s a huge challenge for Dickie Waygood in the driving seat as chef de mission, but I have every confidence that he’ll rise to the challenge, as he always does.

    You can also read this exclusive column in the 20 May issue of Horse & Hound magazine.

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