Anna Ross: A real boost to the calendar *H&H subscriber*

Opinion

Hooray for the new Area Festival format! It’s easy to follow, and will now be twice a year — what’s not to like?

This is a real boost to the British Dressage (BD) calendar, but it does leave us with two silver national champions at some levels.

The old restricted section was dominated by “stable jockeys” and the silver seems to have attracted the same. Would it be better to leave the silver section at Area Festivals, and just have one class at nationals at novice, elementary, medium and advanced medium?

Or maybe it’s better to have two silver sections, so stable jockeys who wish to ride in silver can compete at regionals and Area Festivals can return to being a championship for grassroots riders — albeit very good ones!

A ‘people’s champs’

The inter II has been dropped for this new format and as the grand prix is still the smallest class at the national championships I’m hoping that there are plans afoot for riders who have reached the higher levels. Often these riders have been strong supporters of BD, attending many shows and training sessions on their journey up the grades, so it’s important they have an incentive to continue and don’t feel disregarded.

The timing of the national championships in September has been discussed time and time again and doesn’t look like changing. Perhaps it’s better to accept that the very top combinations won’t be there as they will have just competed at a major championship, and make it more of a “people’s championship”, with a bigger grand prix class as the pinnacle of the season.

An exciting class

It was interesting to watch Philip Hess as the young horse ride judge at the nationals. He has a different riding style to the rider of the past two years, Eva Möller. Philip rides very naturally, whereas Eva “presented” them in a young horse show style. Under Philip, any tendency towards a slow hind leg was quickly discovered as he let each horse go in its own way.

Having foreign judges who have not come across these horses before is great. It will be interesting to see which of those horses get to grand prix; I wonder how many horses in the grand prix once competed in the young horse classes.

Time for a new-look nationals

There was a high-quality entry but a few overexcited horses in the inter I music championship, and Sophie Wells looked as though she was really going to give Charlotte a run for her money until a line of beautiful, but unneeded, one-tempis scuppered her chances.

I agree with Spencer Wilton that a plan should be put in place so that outbursts of applause don’t occur during tests at the new venue. To perform at the top level horses do have to be able to cope with atmospheres, but it’s a shame to see tests spoiled and it’s hard to prepare for as it doesn’t happen at other shows.

It’s definitely time for a new-look nationals and I’m excited for next year. Although they were kept beautifully clean, the HS2 train line can’t go through those Stoneleigh toilets quickly enough for my liking!

Ref Horse & Hound; 3 October 2019