Laura Tomlinson: ‘If the grand prix had been against the clock, I would have won’


  • Laura Tomlinson reflects on this year’s National Dressage Championships at Somerford Park

    After a bit of a competition break during my children’s school summer holidays, it was exciting to get back on the road and head to Somerford Park for the National Dressage Championships – even if we were a little under-prepared!

    This was my first time competing at the nationals since the change in venue, this being the second year the championships have been held at Somerford.

    It was a challenge, as always, not to be allowed to work at all in the main arena in the run-up to our first test, and it certainly makes things harder for younger horses, but the venue itself and the organisation of the event were fabulous.

    There was a fantastic level of horses and riders across the board which really showed how far the sport has come in the UK. The fact that I finished sixth in the grand prix with over 71% shows the strength in depth we have in this country now – especially given that none of the team horses from this year’s World Championships or last year’s Olympics were among the line-up.

    The atmosphere was great and with the minute silence held for The Queen and the national anthem played, it was a poignant moment.

    The celebration to counter the mourning was seeing this year’s World Dressage Championships medallists honoured and cheered, especially individual gold medallist Lottie Fry, who flew over from the Netherlands especially for this.

    How inspiring for all our younger riders to see her at the nationals, laden with gold, talking of her experiences and the hard work she has put in to get to where she is today.

    Speed grand prix?

    On a personal level the show didn’t go quite as I had hoped; my horse Fallatijn (Finn) hadn’t competed since Aachen in July and there was plenty of residual tension. Though our grand prix was mistake-free, he whinnied a lot and my mother told me that if it had been against the clock, I would have won. Thanks mum! Our freestyle test was much better though, so I hope that by Keysoe CDI next month we’ll be able to show a slower and more relaxed version of the same.

    In the meantime, however, Sarah Rogers and our home-bred Full Moon took the six-year-old title with stablemate Forrest Hill in third, and junior rider Sophie Wallace rode our mare Rosalie B in the very competitive advanced medium for another plus-70% score.

    It was great to be there with our coach Carl Cuypers and four riders on Bechtolsheimer horses (Lara Butler, Sarah, Sophie and myself), plus grooms Ella and Lydia. It really felt like a team effort. Lara and our home-bred old boy Kristjan showed that they’ve still got it to score more than 73% in the grand prix.

    It is wonderful to compete at a venue like this in front of a home crowd and not to need to travel across the pond to do so. I am excited about competing at Keysoe for the first time in October and, hopefully, my first time at the ExCeL London in December too.

    The day after the nationals had us all glued to the TV to watch the most emotional funeral service for The Queen. To see how many people had flocked to be on her route was overwhelming. It was a day that none of us will forget. How brave the royal family were to cope with the enormity of the occasion coupled with their grief, and so publicly too. I was certainly in awe of them.

    • Share your thoughts and experiences from the nationals with us at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 29 September

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