Ruth Edge & Lucy Wiegersma: Reflecting on Burghley *H&H VIP*

  • Ruth Edge: five judges required

    Over the past five or 10 years, the standard of eventing dressage has risen enormously.

    You rarely see a poor halt now and the balance, flow and presentation is professional. I think now that the riders have upped their game, the facilities and rules need to catch up with them.

    There’s a good case for saying that at four-stars and championships, there ought to be five dressage judges whose only job is to judge the dressage. The three-member ground jury would still have all their other current responsibilities, but the actual judging of the tests would be handed over to people for whom that is their sole job.

    I also think that eventing ought to consider using a Judges’ Supervisory Panel like in pure dressage. Everybody is human and sometimes if you blink you miss something, but riders are so professional now and every tiny thing counts. It is not fair for a judge’s mistake — which is understandable and even inevitable — to influence the final result.

    We were very fortunate this year that the ground conditions remained the same for all competitors, thanks in part to the excellent preparation by the Burghley team, but also to the luck that the weather was good. But this is becoming a rarity; bad weather can create an unlevel playing field for the dressage.

    Again, because the standard of horse and rider is so much higher we would see an improvement at the very top events if they could perform on a surface. There is only so much you can produce on a grass arena, which may not be perfectly level and doesn’t give the horses the same security underfoot. It has been well proven that organisers can put an excellent temporary all-weather arena in — perhaps this is something to look into for the future.

    The introduction of half-marks has been highly beneficial, as it gives judges so much more range.

    Jung’s balance and flow

    The best test I saw was from Michael Jung on FischerRocana FST. I liked the balance and the flow. It was beautifully presented and from start to finish it showed an elegance and lightness that I feel no one else achieved.

    Rosalind Canter produced a mature test for her first four-star, as proved by her being the only Brit in the top 10 after dressage apart from William Fox-Pitt and Fernhill Pimms, and she is one to watch for the future.

    The Australians, coached by Gareth Hughes, are all starting to produce personal bests, and you can see that in their presentation and the horses’ way of going. I enjoyed watching Paul Tapner and Kilronan; I felt Paul got every mark he could.

    Happy Times looked fantastic for his age (16) and seemed to enjoy himself, which is a credit to Sam Griffiths.

    Common faults included the extended walk to medium walk transition — it is obvious who manages to stay connected from the leg to the bit in the extended walk as this then follows through into the medium walk and in turn the halt and rein-back.

    And the final halt — there were very few still in front of the leg at this point, which resulted in some rather abrupt, on-the-hand transitions.

    Lucy Wiegersma: Vintage Burghley

    For me this was vintage Burghley: a stellar field (albeit missing hot favourites Andrew Nicholson and Avebury), a retro feel cross-country with some big, mean-looking fences, and worthy champions in Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.

    Reversing the course gave riders a completely different outlook on the track. Gone was the 2min 30sec of “free-wheeling” from the Cottesmore Leap back down to the water, and instead we had that long, uphill pull on what was also ground-wise the wettest part of the course.

    No one expected to be up on their markers in the first four minutes, but I was surprised how difficult it was to claw back time towards the end of the track.

    Burghley is always renowned as a big-jumping track, but this year the sheer size of some of the fences had riders squirming, which is exactly how it should be at four-star level.

    I loved the idea of the hanging gate on to the mound at the DairyFarm — a proper hunting fence — although like most of the riders I was less in love with the idea when it came to actually running down to it!

    Michael Jung went up even more in my estimation, riding with such class while nursing a clearly painful ankle from his fall on FischerRocana FST. As for Sam, well, surely there has never been a performer quite like him. What a horse.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 10 September 2015