Paul Hayler: Our youth riders lack accuracy in their tests *H&H VIP*

  • The launch of the under-25 championships next year is very exciting. At the nationals, we saw plenty of riders in that bracket whose futures look very bright, and this will provide a stepping-stone to senior levels.

    I would like to see even more done to help this transition for our young riders.

    I was interested to watch the pony, junior and young rider classes at the Vale View High Profile show. There were lots of quality horses, but I couldn’t help feeling that many riders lacked structure in their warm-ups, and failed to display enough of what I call good, old-fashioned test riding in the arena.

    Each movement should have a clear beginning, middle and end — riders must learn to set up their horses correctly, and use their corners. I thought even some of the good tests were poorly ridden.

    We’re falling down in this area and it needs to be looked at. The training structure at the pony levels is good, and we’re seeing the medals come in, but riders seem to be losing their way at the junior and young rider levels.

    We can’t rest on our laurels. We must sit down with trainers and riders and find a way to help develop accuracy.

    Young riders who are lucky enough to be based in a professional yard find their environment rubs off on them. Let’s help others develop such professionalism.

    Embracing the new

    The new competition structure is about to come in and has been the subject of much controversy. However, when people learn to embrace it, it should offer riders more opportunities. Those in bronze can be nurtured through the levels, while silver riders will find more doors opening.

    People complained when percentage scoring came in, but we must be proactive to develop our sport, not stand still.

    British Dressage (BD) has done a great deal of research, and consulted many riders about what they would like to see. It’s exciting and, rather than throwing restricted riders in at the deep end against open competitors, we have added a section to help protect the grassroots competitors.

    New format for youngsters

    Another exciting change coming in is the new format for young horse classes, and the amalgamation of the potential international and the young dressage horse series.

    The new format is designed to give young horses a more progressive journey to the final, with qualifiers held from March to June, and two semi-finals at Port Royal and Hartpury in July. Riders can enter both if they wish — with young horses especially it is useful to have two chances.

    Eva Möller proved to be a fantastic test rider at this year’s national championships, and we will try to have a good overseas rider again, reducing bias.

    A showcase for the paras

    As training director at BD, I have been working hard on bringing you the National Dressage Convention at Hartpury (21-22 November). It will have a best of British theme, with the three gold medallists from London 2012 there.

    We have also introduced a section for para dressage — Britain wins so many para medals, but many people don’t have an understanding of the training and judging involved. I think it will be a valuable and humbling experience for people to listen to some of the difficulties these riders have to overcome. It should be a great event.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 29 October 2015