Paul Hayler: Are we competing too much? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Having seen some of the same horses out at shows frequently this summer, I can’t help asking myself whether we are a nation that prioritises competing over training. And could this be part of the reason we lack the depth of our European counterparts?

    The German system of methodical training with limited competitive outings has stood them in great stead over the decades they’ve dominated championship podiums.

    This is why we’ve invited two of Germany’s top trainers to host the British Dressage (BD) National Convention (24-25 November).

    Ulf Möller is world renowned for his training and production of young horses while Michael Klimke, son of the legendary Reiner, has successfully ridden at grand prix. It’s a rare window into the German system, from which we can all learn. None of us are beyond expanding our knowledge.

    It worries me…

    The growing fashion of competing over training in this country worries me. The primary focus should be on training to develop the horse’s way of going and furthering its education in preparation for a competition.

    That competition provides a benchmark of how your training is going against the scales of training, measured by a judge. Just to train for the show itself hinders progression.

    We have a number of talented horses and riders in Britain but the numbers making it to grand prix are low. So, what happens to those horses and riders who show so much potential? Does our system actually support and nurture the training of horse and rider to the top level or is winning a rosette now the only goal?

    Carl Hester raised some interesting points (comment, 2 November) on the UKCC training model. It’s something we’ve embraced at BD, and it’s here to stay. However, we recognise that technical experience, or “grandfather rights”, should be taken into account. Learning is an ongoing process for all; it’s not just a case of getting the certificate.

    There is a fast-track route for coaches with extensive riding experience who want to start at UKCC level 3. The BD training committee is currently working on a structure that addresses the needs of coaches and riders, to be unveiled in mid-2018.

    Put the effort in

    My daughter Bobby has just spent a year in Germany, training 10-15 horses daily. Some of what she saw has been reinforcement of what we already do but equally, has challenged us to ride, train and think better, which has had a positive impact on our horses.

    We have some of the best judges in the world and a great system for training, but as riders, we need to put the same effort in. We should be assessing the throughness of the horse and looking at biomechanics so that we are presenting our horses better for judging. After all, riding in front of a judge is a reflection on our training.

    I worry that we’re going to get left behind as nations like Denmark, Sweden and the USA have been developing their training methods. Do our up-and-coming coaches get the exposure to top trainers, and do they seek it out? We have two of Germany’s top trainers at our disposal for a weekend but tickets are still available. Where are all you trainers? If we’re serious about maintaining our place on the international dressage stage we need to grab such opportunities.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 November 2017