Olympia. What a triumph, not only for British dressage results but because of the attendance on the opening Monday. Finally, we got it right. The innovation of Simon Brooks-Ward and Richard Davison in coming up with a concept that could fill the arena on day one was masterly.
Looking at other World Cup dressage qualifiers, such as Stuttgart and Lyon, where the grand prix was held around 8am on a weekday, inevitably they were lucky to attract even a third of an audience.
Olympia put on “Dressage Unwrapped” at 4pm with several different presenters. Gareth Hughes was clear and concise, providing much needed exercises through the levels on his up-and coming small tour horse; Richard Davison and Stephen Clarke put on a brilliant display with an inter I test ridden by Jess Dunn judged out loud by Stephen, followed by Richard’s training tips for achieving even higher marks.
To then see Charlotte ride the very exciting talent Gio, who’ll be doing his first grand prix in a matter of months, gave the audience the chance to see how the basics really matter to make grand prix easy.
Then Dickie Waygood and Pippa Funnell, a great sport and legend in her own right, provided some light relief with their polework. It proves people really do come along for education as well as entertainment. Dressage Unwrapped was groundbreaking and showed that dressage can be attractive to a broader audience.
This was followed by the evening’s grand prix, the new shortened test. Riders seem to have got used to the idea of dismounting and having a microphone put in front of them. It was wonderful to hear great personality and humour.
As opposed to last year’s version, this test really appealed to riders and spectators. There were some good rides, and the fact that everything came up quicker than usual caught a few of us out. It showed that we don’t need three extended trots, but how very important it is to train for that extended walk.
The very short collected walk straight into canter with a tight turn to the zig-zag really required control and excellent use of corners — from prelim to grand prix, everything happens from a corner!
An exciting end to 2019
The World Cup freestyle has always brought the fun factor and a very high atmosphere to Olympia. It was tough at the top but to see Mount St John Freestyle finding such confidence and form under Charlotte, with a huge score, is really exciting.
To see the top five score over 80% — and for four of them to be Brits — was just brilliant. Congratulations to Lara Butler, whose 17-year-old Rubin Al Asad seems to have found new inspiration, and to Lottie Fry, who handled Everdale’s exuberance with maturity.
Riding Hawtin’s Delicato to Uthopia’s London 2012 music must have fuelled our inspiration. The score was a huge personal best for us, and very close to my lifetime best of 85%. No more Christmas presents needed for me!
The 2019 Olympia must have been the best ever for dressage. It’s a lifeline for our sport and I hope the FEI and other countries take note.
All that remains to say is happy New Year!
Ref Horse & Hound; 2 January 2020