By Richard Davison
Dressage is the fastest growing Olympic equestrian discipline in the United Kingdom (UK). As enthusiasm for the sport increases, so does our nation's success at the top. Team GBR (Great Britain) achieved the best-ever dressage results for Britain at the European Dressage Championships last year--team silver and the individual bronze. This recent success clearly demonstrates that we have the riders and horses to compete successfully on the world stage. However, while we have raised our game, so, too, have European competitors, such as Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas and Isabell Werth, who is now back in contention. The Americans, particularly on home soil, are not to be discounted, and there are a couple of nations who had young teams at the 2009 Europeans who will be much stronger at the WEG. All in all, we face tough competition and we know that we can't be complacent.
Riders in the World Class Programme will be under the watchful eye of the selectors and me. The World Class Programme incorporates dressage, eventing, show jumping and para-equestrian. It comprises the Performance and Development programme plus the Equine Pathway. The aim of these programs is to have in place a sustainable system that can deliver more medals on the international stage now and in the future. The Programme has been funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport through Exchequer and National Lottery funds, via UK Sport, since 1998. Team selection for the WEG will be announced the first week in July. Here are some of the British horses and riders to watch:
Laura Bechtolsheimer, 25, and Mistral Hojris, a 17-hand, 15-year-old Danish-bred gelding by Michellino and owned by Dr. and Mrs. Bechtolsheimer. This pair was instrumental to the success of the British team at the Alltech FEI Windsor European Dressage Championships. Britain won team silver, and Laura added to this with an individual bronze in the Grand Prix Special, replicating the success of the British team in Lipica as the best-ever result achieved by a British team at a European Championships, beating Germany in the process. The pair also finished fourth in the Grand Prix Freestyle with 81.75 percent. This pair broke their personal best again to win the Grand Prix at Stuttgart (77.19), and went on to win the Grand Prix Special (76.54). They have since enjoyed a spectacular start to 2010 at the Amsterdam CDI-W in January (78.04 percent in the Grand Prix and 82.30 percent in the Freestyle) coming second in both to Gal and Totilas. Laura is our best hope for an individual medal at WEG.
Emma Hindle, 34, was a member of the British bronze-medal-winning team at the 2003 European Championships at Hickstead. She has been a member of the British team every year since and achieved the best British placing, seventh overall in the individual competition at the 2008 Olympic Games. Emma and Lancet 2, her 16.2-hand, 17-year-old German-bred stallion by Wenzel I, were the lynchpins of the European Championship team in 2009. Last to ride, they put in a polished performance under enormous pressure and clinched the team silver medal.
Carl Hester, 42, has a new ride for 2010. Uthopia--a 16.1-hand, 9-year-old Dutch-bred stallion (by Metall) owned by Sasha Stewart--is in his first year of Grand Prix and has already proved himself a high scorer. At their first international competition at the Spanish Sunshine Tour in March, the combination was undefeated in the big tour classes, improving each time out to score 75.29 percent in the final Grand Prix Special. A consummate professional, Carl has amassed a record 51 national dressage titles and has been British Dressage (BD) National Champion six times. He has competed in three Olympics, one WEG and five European Championships and has reached one World Cup Dressage Final. At the 2009 European Championships, he rode a personal best on Liebling II to win team silver.
Fiona Bigwood's new partner, Wie Atlantico, is a 17.1-hand, 11-year-old German-bred gelding by Wie Weltmeyer. Last year, they had big tour wins at Saumur and Biarritz. This year the pair has achieved three national Grand Prix wins, all with scores of 70 percent or more. A stellar performance from them at Saumur CDIO 2010 led the British team to third place in the Nations Cup.
Fiona, 34, made her senior team debut in 1996 when she was selected for the European Championships with Dance & Fly. In 1998, she was ranked number one in the British International Rider Rankings and the following year, once again, she represented Great Britain at the European Championships. In 2005, she was on the team at the European Championships riding Mr G De Lully.
Maria Eilberg, 26, made her senior team debut in 2009 as part of the silver- medal-winning team at the European Championships. This was the highlight of a year in which she and Two Sox, a 16.2-hand, 16-year-old German-bred gelding (by Ehrentusch) owned by Ferdi Eilberg, enjoyed numerous good international results, including a second in the Grand Prix and a win in the Grand Prix Freestyle at the La Mandria CDI with a score of 74.10 percent. Maria was BD National Champion in 2008.
By Nicky Turner
Dressage is increasingly popular in Australia. Forty-seven percent of the official competition horses are registered to compete in dressage. Numbers of competitors and the quality of horses and riders are ever improving. Geographically, we are challenged, so it is imperative that our riders take part in major international championships like WEG. Long-listed combinations are the front-runners for our WEG team, however, other riders with excellent performances in 2010 may also be considered.
Hayley Beresford (31) represented Australia at the 2008 Olympic Games aboard Brazilian-bred Relampago Do Retiro, a 12-year-old Lusitano stallion owned and bred by Eduardo Fischer of Villa do Retiro in Brazil. Hayley grew up in a horsey family and left Australia to accept a dream opportunity to train with Isabell Werth. She now lives in Rheinberg, Germany, with her husband, Kian Bullock. Hayley placed 18th individually at the 2008 Olympics.
Kristy Oatley (32) has been a pillar of the Australia dressage team for the past 10 years. She rides Quando-Quando, a 1995 Oldenburg stallion (by Quattro B) owned by Rosalind & Robert Oatley. Kristy grew up in New South Wales, an area famous for its vineyards and home of many Australian equestrians. Kristy moved to Germany with her family when she was 12. She won European Young Rider titles in 1995 and 1997. At 21, she finished 15th at the 1998 WEG and has represented Australia at many European competitions and Olympic Games (in 2000, she was 9th individually). Married to Piotr Staczek, they have three children, Oskar, Rosie and Ben. She trains with Karin Rehbein.
Brett Parbery (38) rides the 13-year-old Victory Salute, an 18-hand Dutch Warmblood cross owned by his breeder, Carolyn Lieutenant. This pair is the reigning Australian dressage champion and winner of the Pacific League for the FEI World Cup Dressage. Brett lives about 1? hours from Sydney with his wife, Melinda, where they run a dressage training facility. A popular coach, Brett regularly travels Australia-wide and to New Zealand and Asia to train dressage riders.
Heath Ryan, a 2008 Olympian, rides Regardez Moi, a 14-year-old warmblood stallion by Rubinstein. On returning home from the 2009 World Cup Final where the pair finished 10th, Heath suffered a stroke and was forced to take time out to recover. On three different occasions, Heath has been both Australia's eventing champion and Grand Prix dressage champion. He and his wife, Rozzie, also an accomplished international rider, run a performance horse breeding and training centre about two hours north of Sydney.
Rachael Sanna represented Australia at the 2000 Olympic Games. The team placed sixth. She rode at the 2002 and 2006 WEGs and the 1999 World Cup Final. She rides Jaybee Alabaster, an 11-year-old gelding (by Alabuster) owned by his breeder, Beverly Edwards. Rachael lives on the edge of Sydney on a training centre that she owns and runs with her husband, George Sanna. They have two young children. George is a two-time Australian Olympic jumper rider and 1990 WEG team member.
By Bernarn Maurel
The sport of dressage has grown incredibly in the last 15 to 20 years in France. Although the standard and the results of the French dressage team are not as high as they were when Margit Otto-Crepin was competing in the 1980s and '90s, the European tradition for classical riding is still popular. In the past, the World Cup qualifier at Paris-Bercy has always drawn more than 10,000 spectators. In 2008, the presentation at Paris-Bercy of the four great riding academies--from Vienna, Jerez, Lisbon and Saumer--was a great success, with 12,000 spectators at all three shows.
In 2009, for the first time, there were nine CDIs, including two at the five-star level, and one CDIO in France. Young Riders, Juniors and ponies or Young Horse classes were also included. All this development is based on the increased numbers of competition horses and riders. I recently judged a national Grand Prix with 26 riders, and our national championships in Saumur had about 600 riders competing.
Of course, the best riders at the Grand Prix level are all dreaming of going to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in September. But it's not so easy because, like all federations, ours put the goal quite high for riders, who need to obtain some CDI qualifications to be part of the team. A lot of older horses have just retired. French riders to watch are the two who competed at the European championships at Windsor: Jean-Philippe Siat with Tarski--serious and steady. He was the first Grand Prix horse of Marie-Caroline Maillard--Jean-Philippe's girlfriend who tragically died last year at age 26. Everyone in the French dressage world was burning with tears. Her parents decided to give her horse to Jean-Philippe, and they are the current French champions.
Another top French rider is Marc Boblet, who competed at the Hong Kong Olympics in 2008 with Whitni Star. The horse was lame at Windsor, but he has now recovered and started competing again. Both these riders also have a second Grand Prix horse.
Other possibilities are suggested by our chef d'?quipe, Alain Franqueville (a member of the FEI Dressage Task Force in 2009). Some of the past members of our team have new horses that are at Grand Prix. Most of us say that a Grand Prix pair should have been competing for at least two seasons before going to the highest championships, but Franqueville proved that surprises are possible when Whitni Star finished in 20th place at the Olympic Games and had started Grand Prix only the previous May. We are trying to build a new generation of international riders and are hoping that good trainers like Monica Theodorescu will again come to France. We, the judges, are not involved with this process, because we will have to judge these riders. But the standard of judging in our country is regular enough to give riders correct guidelines. French international judging is recognized and accepted all over the world, with five or six of us going abroad regularly.
Although we hope that thousands of French people will travel across the ocean to Kentucky, we can also comfortably follow it on our TV Horse Channel EQUIDIA. France is one of the only countries in the world (as far as I know) with one dedicated TV horse channel.
To conclude, I could say that French dressage will apply in 2010 the words of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee: "L'important n'est pas de gagner, c'est de participer," which means that the important point is not to win but to participate. It is the great hope of all French dressage that either with a team or with two young and talented individuals, we could place sixth as in the last Olympics. I suppose the French Federation would immediately sign up for such a result!