Laura Tomlinson: Dressage is now “A grade” worthy *H&H Plus*


  • After reading H&H’s review of the decade issue (5 December), I started thinking about the past 10 years for me. Since my glory days with my horse of a decade, Mistral Højris (Alf), I have become a wife and a mother to three crazy, wonderful children, I have lost my wonderful grandfather and also my most loyal companion, our Irish terrier Sherlock.

    Within the past decade, I went from consistently being number two in the world rankings and winning seven championship medals, to being back at the bottom of the pecking order. I work no less hard but my days look very different now, and the energy I once had to work hard and play hard has diminished somewhat.


    The sport has moved on, too. I wouldn’t say that Alf or his main rivals at the start of this decade, such as Parzival and Totilas, performed less impressively, or with less quality than today’s top horses, but the marking has moved on and the “middle field” has improved greatly over the last few years.

    The same top tests can now score nearly 10% more than they would have done 10 years ago. I think that’s great; my brother used to wind me up, telling me that nobody is any good at dressage, as the marks were hardly ever even an “A grade”. Now, however, that is not the case. The middle band are getting mid-70% and the top are consistently over 80%, and more on a super day.

    I have to catch up again with both the quality of my tests and the marks, and while I still miss riding Alf at that level, I am super excited about the new partnerships I am building.

    The outfits too have changed. Even my mother, a strong traditionalist, has started suggesting that some horses need a bit more bling on their browbands. She hasn’t come around to colourful tailcoats and sparkly hard hats yet, though — I think that might take her one more decade…

    Interesting sport

    As I write, Olympia is approaching, and I am disappointed to be going to watch rather than ride. Last year I was eight months’ pregnant, whereas this year my horses are not ready.

    I am excited, however, that Lara Butler is competing our own Rubin Al Asad, who is 17 and looking in great nick. I am not very good at watching Lara though, as I do tend to feel far more nervous spectating than I ever do competing.

    I rode through the new shortened grand prix test last week and I have to say, this year’s trial test flows so much better than last year’s. It’s only a little shorter than the usual grand prix, it still tests the walk, the halts and the rein-back plus all the tricky movements, but with less piaffe passage and only one extended trot. It certainly is nice to ride, and it’s quite useful for some of the “know it all” horses to have to do everything on the opposite rein to normal.

    It will make for interesting sport and the freestyle will be fabulous as always, so hopefully you will have enjoyed the Olympia dressage by the time you read this — and it’ll be time to bring on Christmas!

    Ref Horse & Hound; 19 December 2019