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‘Judging must be seen as a occupation’

  • One of Britain’s greatest dressage riders and trainers, Carl Hester MBE, on the importance of good judges and post-Brexit travel worries

    WITH the cost of living at a frightening level, the news that British Dressage has implemented some measures aimed at providing financial support for organisers and judges is to be welcomed. As from the beginning of this month, venues will only pay minimum starter levies on actual entries and the judges’ rate per horse has increased.

    I have always regarded judging as a profession; judges have a huge responsibility to uphold the principles of dressage, and how we’re judged is how we ride.

    Knowledgeable former riders, especially those who have ridden up to grand prix and have the feeling and knowledge of training, are to be encouraged and welcomed into the judging fold. Although there’s a long way to go in promoting judging as a professional job, we’ve made a start.

    With Peter Storr and Judy Harvey standing unopposed for judges director and international director in the British Dressage board elections, we have two candidates doing their jobs with great success.

    They’ve not only had international judging but also riding experience, so we’re lucky to have that amount of knowledge at our fingertips. Judy has worn a variety of hats over the years, including being a selector. The important thing is that they have both been in the same situations us riders have been through.

    My experience over the years – and although I’ve had a long and successful career, I’ve also come last at Aachen and had numerous other not-so-memorable results – is that judges who have been there and done that are better able to empathise. Of course, the world’s not about to end with a bad dressage test, but rides like that can make you feel as if it is, so it’s where a bit of sympathy can come in handy.

    Both candidates for the position of chair, our current British Dressage (BD) youth director Claire Moir and former training director Jill Day, bring a great deal of equestrian knowledge. Whoever is elected needs to be able to represent us on the big stage with integrity, common sense and personality, and have the ability to deal with people at all levels both nationally and internationally. I wish both candidates well.

    Hartpury is a quality venue

    THE Hartpury Festival of Dressage was very hot, with people sizzling on Hartpury Hill, but congratulations to the Hartpury team on another successful event. We’ve seen such growth over the years and it’s great to see Hartpury really established in the calendar.

    How exciting to have such a quality venue to host the upcoming European Championships for juniors and young riders at the end of the month. My inbox has been filled with messages from people coming to attend the championships.

    Travel difficulties and cost have an impact however, and I don’t envy those aiming to cross the Channel and realising how much more expensive and difficult it is now, thanks to Brexit.

    We’ve already had members of the Spanish and Czech contingents decide against making the trip over fears of extensive paperwork and potential long queues for the return journey due to limited return slots to pass through French customs.

    The Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead, including the Nations Cup, is the same weekend and our departing teams for the World Championships in Herning have to travel then too, as there is no availability on the Monday or Tuesday.

    Why staying hydrated is key

    IT was a shame we had to withdraw Charlotte Dujardin’s top horse Imhotep from Hartpury CDI. He had shown signs of mild discomfort an hour before the trot-up, and the word “colic” always puts the fear of God into any horse owner.

    Thankfully, by the end of the same day “Pete” was fine. But this might serve as a reminder to all of us to be watchful and ensure our horses stay hydrated. It turned out Pete’s symptoms were down to dehydration.

    So make sure you adjust your training, ride early or late or do less, and monitor fluid intake in this hot weather. The same goes for humans as well.

    ● What makes a good dressage judge great? Share your thoughts at

    • This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 21 July

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