Carl Hester: ‘Olympic medals are not set in stone’ *H&H Plus*


  • Carl Hester discusses the ups and downs of the road to the Tokyo Games...

    THE approaching Olympic Games are certainly throwing up some strange situations. Over the past week or so, a number of competitors from a variety of nations have decided that it’s better for them not to go to Tokyo, and have withdrawn from selection or opted not to compete as individuals.

    Who can blame them, with such a lack of opportunity to prepare? Covid and EHV risks have placed significant obstacles in the way of Olympic preparation, that’s a fact, and it’s right that these riders are putting their horses’ welfare first.

    There have been several important shows and national championships held in some countries recently and I have noticed some sensationalised headlines and reporting around these – though not by Horse & Hound, I must add.

    As competitors, we compete under FEI rules and enjoy being judged by highly trained, skilled and talented people, who have dedicated their lives to the sport. But there are times riders must feel that some competition reports read as the complete opposite to the remarks written on their test sheets.

    There also seems to be a certain presumption that the Olympic medals have already been awarded, but make no mistake, nothing is set in stone.

    Of course, we all know Germany can field incredible horsepower, but stranger things have happened than Germany not winning gold.

    Look what happened to Danish rider Cathrine Dufour at Compiègne CDIO5*, eliminated from the competition when her horse Bohemian refused to enter the arena for the grand prix special. This led to Denmark’s elimination from the Nations Cup.

    Although Cathrine so tactfully did everything in her power to persuade the horse she considers to be her top choice for Tokyo, there was no way he was playing. Imagine if that had happened at the Olympics. Once again, it proves that riders are human, horses are horses and sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

    That Isabell Werth got beaten by Jessica von Bredow-Werndl at the German national championships this month will surely only bring out Isabell’s fighting spirit ahead of the Olympics. But do watch Jessica’s freestyle test on TSF Dalera BB to see a top-class, beautiful, classical performance. It provided real inspiration and a boost to what competitive dressage needs as an example of how to do it.

    Back in business

    AT home, it’s really exciting to be out competing and event organisers must be hugely relieved to be back in business.

    The Somerford Premier League, ahead of this year’s national championships at the same venue, showed just how much the organisers have put into the venue, and I hope people will really enjoy it there.

    As I write, it looks unlikely any of our riders will have been able to get to Le Mans CDI, taking place this week.

    Two Covid jabs are now required to enter France and, due to the fact not all riders are OAPs, the majority won’t have received a second dose of the vaccine in time.

    This was always going to be a possibility – if only the selectors could have got ahead of this and organised a national selection trial here such as the Germans, Dutch and Spanish have done.

    Once again, with the Tokyo Olympics and the European Dressage Championships, we’ll lack our top grand prix horses at the nationals, which could end up a damp squib as a result.

    Instead, Wellington’s Premier League last week would have been an ideal venue and time for a national selection trial. Attended by all top contenders, it would
    have been a Covid-realistic, fair, and transparent solution, and cost-effective for riders and owners. Oh the benefit of hindsight.


    Carl’s exclusive column is also available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 17 June

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