H&H’s dressage columnist eyes up the competition at European international shows
The international dressage community breathed a huge, collective sigh of relief when we saw the first Instagram posts made by 22-year-old Spanish team rider Juan Matute Guimón, who suffered a brain bleed in early May. I have been following his recovery in absolute awe. Seeing someone so young embark on this journey of recovery with such positivity and poise is quite remarkable and inspirational. I wish him the absolute best in his fight to come back.
In a comeback of a different kind, Isabel Werth recently competed her World Cup champion Weihegold OLD at Achleiten CDI after quite a long break and scored 81%. Isabell’s team-mate Jessica von Bredow Werndl was also out competing recently, posting big scores in Hagen.
The Germans once again look untouchable and are able to get out internationally while, frustratingly, it feels like in Britain we are still treading water from a “big show” point of view. I am meant to be competing in Belgium in August, but that is already looking iffy given that Belgium – and Britain – may be on the brink of further restrictions.
But we have been lucky that many of our national venues have put on shows and have done a fantastic job of keeping everyone safe in the process. I had three of my horses out at Hunters Equestrian two weeks ago and I was delighted to have them back in the competition arena, with my top mare, Rose Of Bavaria, winning the grand prix and my upcoming Fallatijn Van Kairos winning his first inter II.
As Andrew Nicholson wrote in his column recently (23 July), competition sharpens you up. It shows us what we still need to work on and where our work during lockdown might have paid dividends.
Carl Hester also organised a fantastic grand prix test riding event at Hartpury, which gave some of us the opportunity to ride in the international arena there with top judges Peter Storr and Isabel Wessels.
It was great to have the chance to talk through our tests straight afterwards; it is so valuable to get verbal feedback and have some dialogue with good judges, as they often present a different angle to the people who see you every day.
With German riders coming out on top form, it’s easy to feel intimidated. However, having seen some of our top horses in the ring at Hartpury and feeling how my own mare is developing, I think that come the next championship, whenever that may be, we might just be in a position to fight for the top spot on the podium.
As I write this column, the sun is shining and the temperature is just over 30°C. I have just finished riding my horses and it made me think about how important stable management is when the weather is more extreme than what our horses are accustomed to.
For fit horses and riders, the heat shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but it is still important to remember to feed good-quality electrolytes, give our horses regular breaks and cool them down sufficiently after work.
Because dressage horses are not moving through the air at speed, they retain a lot of heat in their large muscles; these must be “aggressively cooled” after work – starting with walking them until they have cooled down and don’t feel hot to the touch. If horses are well managed, they recover quickly and can thrive in the heat while still working well.
It’s easy to forget ourselves in the heat, too, but making sure we are hydrated and well-fuelled not only helps us cope physically in more challenging conditions, but contributes to our mental ability and focus, too.
Ref Horse & Hound; 6 August 2020