Over the past couple of decades, the things I’ve heard the most complaints about with regard to the national championships are the weather and the stabling. This year though, someone answered our prayers. The weather couldn’t have been better and the fresh mornings turned into balmy afternoons, which set the tone for a vintage nationals.
The temporary stables, too, had a huge upgrade and were more spacious and up-to-date, something that was hugely appreciated by many.
Ironically though, it seems this was our last nationals to be held at the Stoneleigh Park venue due to the HS2 project. Although the project has been delayed, British Dressage (BD) has made the decision to crack on and move the championships to a new venue for 2020.
Let’s hope the new venue has the scope and infrastructure to allow our wonderful showpiece event to develop and grow. The nationals need a revamp and the timing is perfect; these are exciting times.
‘Having a fair fighting chance’
Every year I have witnessed combinations who have been affected badly by applause from the neighbouring arena at Stoneleigh, and this year was no different.
I feel a huge sense of disappointment for all involved in these scenarios, not just the rider and the startled horse, but also the support team watching on tenterhooks from the sidelines. Some may try to justify this by arguing that we are trying to produce competition horses that are to compete internationally, and so they need to be able to cope with all sorts of distractions. That is true, but our sport is about encouraging riders and horses of all levels to celebrate their journey. For a lot of riders, the national championships is not just the pinnacle of their year, but the pinnacle of their competitive career.
So BD, when you are deciding the new layout, please try to give every combination a fair fighting chance.
Also on my personal nationals wish list would be super speedy scoring — online and on site — so everyone can keep up with what’s going on, as well as real-time electronic scoring, so the marks are shown per movement during each test. It gives so much more meaning to tests for the spectators.
Finally, I’d like to see the event being livestreamed. It wouldn’t stop people attending. Think of all the shows livestreamed all over the world. Those venues are always crammed with people.
Nip Tuck, a legend
Finally, what a joy to watch the evergreen Nip Tuck winning the grand prix and national title, looking so happy and enjoying his work so much in the masterful hands of Mr Hester. This horse has done his country, rider, support team and owner, Jane de la Mare, proud — he is a true legend.
Ref Horse & Hound; 19 September 2019