Carl Hester: ‘Linda Whetstone was a high-flyer in all areas of her life’


  • Carl Hester pays tribute to British Dressage chairman Linda Whetstone, and reflects on London International’s move to the ExCeL where he received a special surprise award

    NEWS of the sudden death of our British Dressage chair Linda Whetstone came as a huge shock to so many. She was an inspiring person possessed of an incisive intellect; an amazing stickler for detail, timings, and strategies. It was no wonder that one rarely came across anyone who had any complaint about Linda, as one of her chief characteristics was her fairness.

    I had heard that she was a high-flyer in all areas of her life but reading the tributes from across the world, and watching the tribute to her in the House of Commons, I realised I had no idea she was held in such high regard in so many spheres.

    Passionate about providing opportunities for learning and training, accessibility, and development in all areas of the sport, Linda was quite simply the leading light who shaped the way British dressage is today with her precision and innovation. That she did such amazing work all over the world to promote, support and defend the concept of a free society was a breathtaking discovery.

    A wonderful tribute by Andy Mayer, CEO of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the influential think-tank co-founded by Linda’s father, Sir Antony Fisher, and of which she was a board member for over 30 years, lays out the inestimable contribution Linda made, and how humble and unassuming she was about it. You can read it at 1828.org.uk

    Linda, thank you for all you achieved. My condolences to your husband Francis, daughters, grandchildren, and many friends around the world.

    An ExCeLlent show

    THE London International Horse Show at ExCeL was an outstanding success. While it did seem a big ask for the ExCeL to match up to the charm and grandeur of Olympia, the ExCeL proved to have its own personality in bucketloads.

    With so much more room, the retailers I spoke to said having the space was better, and the warm-up arenas were particularly appreciated. Riding in a 20x40m arena with big stanchions to dodge, as we did at Olympia, could be pretty challenging for dressage horses and riders preparing to strut their stuff.

    The main arena had a really wonderful atmosphere and, while we don’t know whether the move will be permanent yet, I think people will fall in love with the ExCeL as much as they did with Olympia.

    The organisation, as ever, was handled brilliantly with seamless efficiency, and the foreign competitors who made the journey were all delighted. They did, however, experience what we have faced in crossing the Channel since Brexit, and found out how difficult it is to cross the red tape of Dover.

    Thank you, journalists

    I WAS both surprised and delighted to receive a lifetime achievement award from the British Equestrian Writers Association (BEWA).

    It did take me back many years to my first senior team championship in 1990, after which the incomparable Alan Smith of The Daily Telegraph, one of the founders of BEWA, wrote that I might be considered Britain’s big hope in the sport.

    Getting this award was so lovely as many of the journalists that put me up for it have followed my career for 30 years. I did send Alan a message to apologise for the fact that, although it was wonderful of him to write that back in the day, it did take me nearly 20 years to win a medal. It must have been the longest bit of hope he’d ever wished for.

    Being so delighted to win the award at the ExCeL, I went off to join in the Christmas cheer and celebrate, the result of which was that I promptly lost the award. This was absolutely mortifying. However, after countless phone calls and a police-like investigation by show staff it was found, much to my relief. I am hugely grateful to the person who handed it in.

    ● How did you find the London International Horse Show? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale 30 December 2021

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