List One judge and international trainer and rider Judy Harvey FBHS shares her highlights from the Winter Dressage Championships, welcomes efforts being made by newer venues, and looks forward to the nationals at Somerford in September
This year’s NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships have been so exciting. Last year’s championships were really locked down under Covid restrictions and there were no tradestands. This year, with eased restrictions, I drove in and one of my first thoughts was “shops!” Of course, Hartpury is such a lovely showground: well organised, horse-friendly, and still following Covid protocols. There are perfect, beautifully dressed arenas and lovely stewards – but there’s still a cactus on the corner of the horse walk that my horse is terrified of!
I watched a couple of the silver and Area Festival sections and was gobsmacked by the standard. I saw a few tests I thought would be seriously competitive, but when I checked the results they had finished only ninth or 10th.
One of the best moments from my week was as I walked along the bank and spotted a girl in her riding gear who was looking down the scores on her phone. Suddenly she burst into tears with happiness and was totally overwhelmed – she had won!
That’s what this show is all about: it’s for the members, the people who are maybe less experienced, who might be an amateur rather than a professional, to have the opportunity to come and rub socially distanced shoulders with, and even compete against, Olympic medallists. Many riders can be somewhat daunted, especially if it’s their first time here, but they will learn a lot and they will take a lot of happy memories home with them.
Busy times ahead
Since lockdown eased it has felt like we have had show after show after show – it has been really full-on. We have some excellent newer venues: the new Hickstead was lovely, Wellington is fabulous too. Keysoe, under new ownership, has been spruced up with lots of changes. The summer regional finals begin next week!
Somerford should prove ideal for the summer National Dressage Championships in September. It has such space, the permanent stabling is lovely, and they are experienced organisers. It won’t have that worn-out feeling Stoneleigh Park was getting. The weather will be a concern though as it is a very open venue, without a lot of shelter.
Judy’s views on the winters, plus her thoughts on the British team heading for Tokyo, are also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 8 July
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