Driving home from the British Dressage winter championships still disbelieving the results that my small and fairly average horse managed to produce, I’m reflecting on why this show at Hartpury is always such a good one.
It has the full package — the best of the amateur circuit plus classes for the pros. It brings parts of the dressage community together who otherwise may never meet.
That spirit of inclusivity is particularly apparent in the stables. Competitors from the winter championships and the Area Festival finals are all mixed up together in the stables and there is such positivity and friendliness, having been there for five days I can tell you that that was universal. British team riders, international riders, and prelim Petplanners all muddle along together — it’s exactly how horse sport should be.
This year the weather was mostly kind — which it isn’t always, with only a couple of real downpours, however my ginger colleague Lucy did manage to get burnt on the first day, when the temperature barely touched 10 degrees.
The stewards at this show cannot go with out a mention. Dan Chapman — who would be able to organise a cat-herding tournament — is on hand from dawn until well after dark with his ever-ready smile and sensitivity towards stressed/upset/elated/giddy competitors and their connections. The whole stewarding team keep the show on the road and I hope they receive the thanks that they are due.
Perhaps this year the standard of the PSG and inter I freestyles wasn’t as high as in recent years, but the gala evenings are still enjoyable spectacles.
However, there is talk of this show hosting the final of some sort of small tour series in future, instead of being invitational, which would be a really positive move.
On the Area Festival front, the inclusion of inter I for the first time in 2015 has been fantastically well received, and as far as I can tell there is scope and demand for the series to go all the way up to grand prix.
As the curtain came down on the winter championships, and Sadie Smith saluted at the end of her test aboard River Rise Escarla, the era of open and restricted sections was consigned to the history books.
The shiny new sections are only just bedding in, with a lot of people unsure of where or how they fit in. This, according to Judy Firmson-Williams is discouraging some from competing, but BD’s stats show an increase, so it’s obviously not scared too many people off.
There are still some cogs which don’t quite mesh together correctly, but the whole BD team is receptive to feedback.
Once I’ve worked out where the new system leaves me, Fab and I may yet don our top hat and tails and try a spin around an advanced, and, if we get really daring, perhaps a PSG. One thing’s for sure, if we do attain the heady heights of advanced, I will not get a wink of sleep night before the test.
Catch up with earlier episodes of Fab TV: