Carl Hester: ‘Riders’ reputation mustn’t influence judges’ marks’


  • Carl Hester explains why he has changed his 2022 competition strategy to prioritise competing in the UK this year...

    I AGREE with the comments of Nina Barbour and Katie Jerram-Hunnable in their recent columns (7 and 14 April editions of Horse & Hound magazine), that the exponential rise in the cost of living and travel is going to change the way we compete. These factors have certainly made me think differently about competition plans for this year.

    Through my early years on the competition scene, it was imperative to be constantly competing on the European circuit, the idea then being that you had to put yourself in the judges’ eye. Looking back, I recall how “making a name for yourself” was considered so important.

    Nowadays, however, there is so much scrutiny on judging at every level, and the Judges’ Supervisory Panel in place at major championships, and so reputation is no longer such a factor in bringing in more marks. It has to be the test on the day that will reel in the points if you produce the quality and correct paces needed.

    With that in mind, as well as the extortionate prices foisted on us after Brexit, and with Russia waging war on Ukraine – I could go on – I’ve decided that it’s better in the long term for my horses to do more national competitions.

    We’ve already lost dressage at Royal Windsor Horse Show (hopefully only for this year), which makes it even more important to support our Premier Leagues so that organisers feel it is worthwhile putting quality surfaces, stabling and infrastructure in place, and that there will be enough spectator viewing to produce a real atmosphere.

    A quick tot-up showed me that for one international trip, I could do four shows here on the same budget, and with the horses’ education in mind that is going to be more beneficial. It’ll also mean the horses have less time off than they would need after a big international show.

    Harmony and atmosphere

    IT was lovely to see the FEI World Cup Dressage Final take place with spectators again earlier this month in Leipzig. Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl is putting out a very good impression and benchmark for how dressage should look. At present, her harmony with Béatrice Buerchler-Keller’s TSF Dalera BB, who does not actually have the easiest conformation, is exemplary.

    Our own Lottie Fry struggled with Dark Legend’s concentration at the final. Leipzig is predominantly a jumping show and the noise and movement in the stands seemed a bit too much for Darky to bear. They have been such a successful combination; this was just a little reminder that sometimes we can’t control all the variables. Sometimes tension can come from outside influences and there is very little you can do to control those.

    It was wonderful to see Isabell Werth retire Weihegold OLD on a high in Leipzig. The mare is another in the very long line of horses she has produced to top level, and Isabell still has big ambitions for the Paris Olympics. I admire her tenacity!

    Dressage for all

    CLOSER to home, I managed to get myself over to the NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships at Hartpury to do some spectating. All the levels are highly competitive.

    I also found the sheer volume of horses and riders competing at Hartpury in the Winter Dressage Championships and also the Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships astonishing. I saw every type in action, from an 11hh pony to chunky cobs to warmbloods, and I congratulate everyone who took part.

    It truly proves to me that dressage really is for all shapes and sizes.

    ● Is the cost of living crisis influencing your competition plans? Tell us at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound, on sale Thursday 28 April

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