Carl Hester on the national dressage championships: ‘I enjoyed it, but the prize money was appalling’


  • H&H’s dressage columnist Carl Hester praises the new-look nationals, and offers some ideas for improvement in the future

    I VERY much enjoyed this year’s LeMieux National Dressage Championships, and being able to watch as I wasn’t riding. I really liked the new venue, Somerford Park; the main arena had an international feel to it, and there were some stand-out combinations in many of the classes I saw.

    As always, it was particularly interesting to watch the young horse classes. Every single winner was one you’d like to take home. Becky Moody’s home-bred Jagerbomb, the seven-year-old champion and runner-up in both the prix st georges gold classes, certainly looks like one for the future, notably showing his talent for the grand prix movements in the prize-givings.

    This really is the age when horses need development in the right direction to become future grand prix stars. In many ways, it’s one of the most exciting ages, when you’ve got a bit of a feel from the horse’s trot and canter, the desire to work and indications of its trainability.

    Charlotte Dujardin is developing mine and Coral Ingham’s eight-year-old Everdale son Imhotep. He is sensational and we’re very excited about his prospects for future international championships.

    “Pete”, as he’s known at home, lives outside in the field 24/7, like En Vogue. Although that might not work for every horse, it can help keep a hotter horse sane and rideable, as over-eagerness to work is countered by field life.

    Areas to improve

    I APPRECIATE that this year British Dressage is feeling its way with the national championships, finding out what can be improved, and with a significant amount more spent at Somerford than in previous years at Stoneleigh, it will be interesting to see how revenue generation develops.

    Like most British events, it’s weather-dependent for everyone to have a really good time and luckily this year the weather was kind. It might all have been a bit different in rain and wind!

    While the show itself was a huge success for everyone I’ve spoken to, there were complaints about the lack of a live-stream for those who couldn’t attend.
    British Dressage was aiming for bums on seats, but there will always be people who can’t get there in person, especially those with horses to do and no cover, and of course for health, work, or lack of transport reasons.

    I’m sure Emile Faurie must be delighted at being the new national champion, however the prize money for this level of competition was appalling.

    Look at the model Eventing Elite launched at the Chedington Bicton five-star, where the team behind the Event Rider Masters series offered live-stream packages from which part of the proceeds was reinvested back into the prize fund and the sport.

    That format seems like a winner to me, and worth looking at for dressage.

    No longer “Olympia”

    IT’S been a whirlwind summer with the Olympics, Europeans, and nationals all within eight weeks, so I’m looking forward to a couple of easy months now. Our Olympic horses are turned away in the field, and will then spend a month hacking.

    Charlotte’s aim this winter is the World Cup series, and before we know it, it’ll be time for the London International Horse Show. It’ll be difficult, but we mustn’t refer to it as “Olympia” now it’s at the ExCeL. But after a year’s break it will be interesting to see what the change of venue brings to this amazing showcase for dressage, showjumping and the wealth of horsey entertainment on offer.

    I’m sure Simon Brooks-Ward and his team will deliver a memorable event. Ticket sales are already going strong and there’s an offer on grand prix tickets when you book freestyle tickets.

    I have to decide whether to take En Vogue to compete – will a vibrant indoor show be good for his nerves, and mine? We shall see.

    In the meantime, I’m off on an end-of-season break, trekking in the Andalusian hills. You can never have enough of horses.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 7 October

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