Archive | August, 2012

Dreams and the times we live in…

27 Aug

From Team GBR’s peerless High Performance Leader,Will Connell’s blog:

<< … But I still have a dream. I have a dream that as one sport we can rise up and embrace that emotion that has touched so many, whether it be the written media, TV, radio or the wee lad in the stadium who shouted: “We love those dancing horses” . That mantra can embrace all, whether it be dressage, jumping, cross country, vaulting etc etc. The beauty of the horse and its ability to perform amazing skills…. I have a dream that we can further educate all age groups as to the therapeutic value of horses for those with disabilities or special needs. I have a dream that we can take elite equine sport once more in to the centre of our Capital City and other great Cities around the country. Imagine dressage and jumping on The Mall…regardless of discipline it still celebrates the horse….VIP hospitality one side..inner city children the other side of the arena…what a send off for the World Games in 2014 that would be. I have a dream that all young people can enjoy that freedom and majesty of riding horses. >>


Years ago, Californian Olympic rider (also  teacher/trainer/coach/breeder/judge)  Hilda Gurney set the dressage world on its ear. A teacher of disadvantaged children, she would get up before school started, ride a few horses, go teach all day , change in her van, grab a sandwich at home, go back to the barn and ride and teach until it was too dark to see.

Sometimes, she would put 2 horses in the trailer, and take them to the school where she taught during the day. The school officials had put in a small square of grass just for her. She would unload, and out of this tiny yellow trailer would come a large red horse-the legendary Keen, considered the best dressage horse in the world in his time—which is forever.

She would tack him up and then talk to the children gather around the tiny square of grass. She would piaffe and passage, somehow squeeze in a flying change here and there, and tell the children what she was doing—talking to her horse. Sculpting his body to make him ever more beautiful.


Then she would tack up the other horse and give pony rides—we didn’t use Keen because he was so tall, it was hard to hold the children upright on the saddle.


…So—who can imagine doing this today?

In today’s litigious world, I cannot.

Something has been lost in the magic, and it is hard to believe we will find it again.




Database–is it a key? Is it even important?

20 Aug

Is an equestrian database a necessity for success in horse sport?

The Germans and Dutch have  always had registries and with the internet came the appearance of (pick your language –pedigree, results, registration, owners, etc.

Here’s today’s homepage:

Horsecount 724867


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Fuchs took the gold medal at the EC for Young Riders

Petronella Andersson from Sweden, Maelle Martin from France and Martin Fuchs from Switzerland were so far ahead of the competitors in front of the second round..Read more…

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The British  started compiling their National Equine Database (NED)  in 2008, as a way to track successful sport lines,register as many British horses as possible, and in all ways have a central,easily available information and data center for all horses.

We all know how the equestrian part of these recent Olympics went: with few notable exceptions, those 3 countries dominated the results.

Today, the British government withdrew its financial support for this database.

This means that all NED services including horse search, lost and stolen register, horse associations, pedigree, progeny and performance reports, passport check, NEDLinks and equine reminders will no longer be available.


I have been interested in all this because a horse sport database just seems like such an obviously good idea to promote horse sport: to have a centralized, user-friendly location that keeps records. This is something that the United States has needed for a long time.

NED obviously does a lot more than horsetelex: it attempts to provide a way to support effective breeding and competition AND everything else including the kitchen sink.

So here’s hoping we can create a database in the U.S. and  keep it afloat the same way horsetelex does–by asking those who gain from its use to support  the database rather than the government funding it.



Post-Olympics…heroes and others

13 Aug

So  “higher faster stronger”  is over for another four  years.

Thanks to the internet, it was possible to watch the entire competition, whatever one’s interests might be.


Also thanks to the internet, it was possible to discuss events in live time, making  ever stronger the illusion of ‘global village’ and that one was actually there, cheering on heroes, magnanimously not holding bad thoughts about villains.  In dressage, there were no villains. Every horse and rider there had proven over and over their legitimate right to be there, in the company of the best of the best.


As no one else has yet ever accomplished what Anky has done– and  Salinero, with his back to back golds is ALSO in the ‘legend’ category –these two are of course  WINNERS.  What other rider and support team has produced an equine athlete that has medaled in 3 Olympics and maybe looked the best in his final Olympics?

As there would be no dressage medals for GBR without Carl Hester, he is an absolute ,hands-down WINNER.

As there would be no Charlotte Dujardin and no Valegro without Carl, he is a DOUBLE TRIPLE WINNER.

His training program, his management, his good luck—it all came under the closest  scrutiny and held up for gold.

Valegro always looks self-satisfied—as though he knows the sun comes up each day merely because it pleases him.  Everyone knows that these horses will be sold, so a wish here that Valegro and Uthopia always look as happy and confident as they did at this championship.

However much Charlotte was mentored by Carl and however much Carl oversaw just about every step , hats off to the combination itself for pulling out everything in their performances and raising the bar that was Ed-and-Toto.

There is no doubt that Charlotte and ‘Blueberry’  deserved their marks. The harmony, the charm, the incredible self-carriage  far outweighed  a mistaken step here or there in the freestyle. To those who say the horse looks heavy in her hand, I can only ask: how then, does he manage to collect and extend and never change his balance, rhythm or outline?  Because  other horses ALL nodded their heads, changed their outlines, etc. when they leaned on the bit or froze behind it.

Here is hoping that Carl and Charlotte’s next partnerships rise to these heights  and beyond. And as Carl Hester has said: it takes THREE HORSES and THREE RIDERS ll to peak at the same time–so hats off  at this Olympics to Carl, Charlotte and Laura.

As no one else has ever had the partnership of Ed-and-Toto, only to  lose it and make another partnership which we watched develop over the three competitions, so Edward Gal  is a WINNER.

Sure,  Undercover looked tense, but each performance became more confident, more appealing,more relaxed. As Ed himself said, by the end, he was “75.4% satisfied”  –and that  there are 80’s and 90’s again in his future.

I still miss Ed-and-Toto, and can only imagine what the bar might be now if that partnership had not been pissed on and cast aside.



The hypersensitivity protocol must be rewritten ,revised, re-whatever word one wants to use.

AS is stands now, the capricious power to prod with a pencil and insist a horse is ‘hypersensitive’ is just ludicrous,as it results in DISQUALIFICATION. The bland response that ‘no wrongdoing is implied’ only makes the  rule ever more bizarre and unfair and in stark contrast to the idea of fairness in sport.


The Saudi Arabian show  jumper team won  team bronze. But it is a tainted medal. ALL these riders have westernized to the point where they  could have, indeed should have, stood up for and publicly applauded the courageous decision of Saudi leaders to allow two Saudi women to compete at the games:

Wajdan Shaherkan (16)  in judo and Sarah Attar(19) in track.

These two teenagers carried their responsibility with immense dignity and pride. They are true champions. They deserve everyone’s applause and consideration.

There is also the rather strange ‘qualification’ of one of the show jumping team, Abdullah Sharbatly, whose FEI  drug suspension sentence was  overturned and shortened by the one-man CAS arbitrator in order that Sharbatly could be part of the Olympic team.  (The Saudis are funding the FEI’s priority Nation’s Cup competition for at least the next 5 years with the possibility of more if certain conditions are met). Even with the suspension overturned, Sharbatly still needed qualifying scores.

The entire story is told here:



And finally—

Dear FEI Dressage Committee:

We the public really applaud your decision to push for more transparency.  To that end, please give us back the OLYMPIC DRESSAGE SCORE SHEETS  which were available for the last Olympic Games in 2008 and which have been available for nearly every big dressage competition since then.

It really helps grow the audience if we are allowed to understand how the scores have been evaluated.

Thank you.

Some more thoughts about dressage and Carl Hester

8 Aug

Several World Cups ago, Carl Hester and Escapado represented Great Britain at World Cup Finals. ‘Peanuts” as Escapado was called at home, was an incredibly gifted , very sensitive horse.

World Cup was in Las Vegas: we had smoke bombs, we had clowns, we had fireworks.

It was a bit much for Peanuts, and he  laid down a freestyle marred by tension, despite his great gifts for the ‘three P’s of dressage: piaffe,passage, pirouettes.

Discussing all this well after the fact, Carl said simply that he could hear Peanuts’ heart pounding when they entered the tightly packed indoor arena, and that Peanuts gave him his heart during that performance.

Watching Carl on Uthopia on the biggest stage of them all, I suddenly realized that he was reacting to every tremor from the stallion.It made for some interesting moments,  but I like to think the difference here is that Uti was doing the same thing right back at Carl–each of them re-focusing the other.

So here’s to Peanuts, now happily retired at Carl’s farm.

And here’s to Uthopia. I doubt that Uti will get to retire to Carl’s after going to whatever is his new home–he is a highly-prized breeding stallion whose stock has only gone sky-high.

But one can hope that the new home will be able to hear the heart of a great horse.



The Grand Prix Special…London, the dressage team medals

8 Aug

Everyone knows the results:

GBR  –  Gold

GER  –  Silver

Ned –    Bronze

There were so many stories, so many opinions;  so many chances taken  for success, so many chances not taken, so many chances that ended in mistakes.

In the end, it came down to what Carl Hester said last year at the European Championships in Rotterdam when the British appeared from ‘nowhere’ and won the team gold:

“We have had great riders and great horses before this.

But right now, we have THREE great rider/horse combinations.”

And that is what it took in London for the team medals.

Oh, people can argue about this horse was over-scored and that one under-scored  (I certainly have) , but that was not the story here. The story, very simply, is that the bar got raised. It took foundation–horses moving in uphill balance, staying in rhythm, staying in harmony with their human athlete partner. It took athleticism from both partners.  It took just the right combination of nerves/sensitivity and go-for-the jugular-get out of my way-focus. It took TRAINING, not buying.

Dressage has been looking for a hero since we  lost Ed-and-Toto. Edward Gal himself has found a wonderful new partner in Undercover, and time will tell how  much magic will be made yet again.

But here and now , in London, we got  a wonderful fantasy in 3 acts:

Act I:

Carl Hester and Uthopia set a new Olympic record for the Grand Prix Special.

Carl bought Uti as a baby, nearly lost the ride late last year in the feeding frenzy that was Olympic madness gone wild as horses changed hands before the December 31 deadline set for Olympic ownership, and then had all sorts of luck leading up to London.

Act II:

Dutch rider Adelinde Cornelissen and her great partner Parzival turn in one of the magic rides of their lives and set the bar higher, breaking Carl’s score.

Act III:

Charlotte Dujardin, who has worked for and with Carl over the last five years, made history on ANOTHER horse Carl bought as a green 3 year-old and that Charlotte herself trained up to set the records here and elsewhere. Yes, with 18 months of GP competition under her belt  — and maybe  two Grand Prix Specials– Charlotte rode Valegro to yet a higher score and set the newest Olympic record for the GPS.

My favorite headline so far is from the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Billionaire’s Daughter, Donkey Rider Clinch Dressage Gold”

Act IV:

When all the scores are added up ,including British teammate Laura Bechtolsheimer and her much-decorated partner, Mistral Hojris–the British had won the gold. Which meant that for the first time since 1964  , the Germans had lost gold and had to be content with silver.



And of course Carl Hester. His special sympathetic riding and solid training got the ultimate showcase. Right time, right stage, right horseman. His years of riding donkeys up and down the hills of his home on the island of Sark have paid off.

As this is a modern fairy tale, both Uthopia and Valegro are for sale as soon as the Freestyle is over.

Let the bidding wars begin.

The Olympics and some ( favorite?) old subjects…

6 Aug

‘Hypersensitivity’ makes the jumpers look almost as subjective as dressage.

Hypersensitivity has claimed another victim. This time Canadian show jumper rider Tiffany Foster.

Hypersensitivity apparently only affects show jumpers, not eventers or dressage horses, even though a case could be made for any discipline to benefit from a horse’s somehow  ‘natural’ (ie not caused by human intervention or meddling) heightened sensitivity to touching anything with its feet/hooves/legs.

It is the obverse—heightened sensitivity ‘perceived’ by the person doing the poking of the supposedly affected spot—that enrages horsemen everywhere.

The first big-stage scandal involving this FEI nightmare was,of course, when the great mare Sapphire and her rider US showjumper McLain Ward looked to be about to win the World Cup Final. A spot on the chestnut mare’s front coronet band was judged to be ‘hypersensitive’. This was accomplished by poking the spot repeatedly with a pencil.

Human meddling, chemical or just physically abusive such as poling/blistering/etc is called ‘hypersensitization’  and is punished harshly, with suspensions, fines, and anything else FEI can employ..

Hypersensitivity is when a horse jogs sound, flexes sound, moves sound—but thermographic cameras reveal hot spots,which the FEI and its vets freely admit can be caused by the horse rolling in the stall or otherwise striking the wood with its hoof/leg—let alone clearing fences or rapping a pole.

So yes, the hot spot can be caused by the horse engaged in its job.


From Hoofblog:

There is a photo there of the coronet band spot in question.

<< Veterinarian and former farrier Mike Pownall DVM of McKee-Pownell Equine Services in Ontario commented: “Thermography has too many false positives to be used as the deciding factor on whether a rider is disqualified. More research has to be done to determine a gold standard way to protect the horse. Until then, it is unfair to the horse, the rider and the nation.”>>

Pownall’s comments above can be taken as partisan, because the latest victim of this FEI charge is a member of the Canadian showjumping team, Tiffany Foster’s horse Victor.

Nevertheless, the sentiments are shared by many.


Incredibly, there is competition besides the Olympics.

The World Young Horse Championships  once again was held at Verden, Germany.

The 5 year old winner was a pleasant  Oldenburg gelding, Sa Coeur (Sir Donnerhall- Don Davidoff), ridden pleasantly by Eva Moeller.

The 6 year old winner , Farouche, was last years ‘fireworks’ champion and did not disappoint this year either. Farouche (Fuerst Heinrich – Dimaggio) was bred in England by Woodlander Stud’s Lynn Crowden.

The 18+ hand chestnut mare, ridden by Michael Eilberg, was awarded a final score of 9.88!! (




That brings us back to dressage scores again<g> so  once more,  The Question:

WHY can we not have the SCORES-BY-MOVEMENT TEST SHEETS made public?

The judging of the performance is the linchpin of dressage competition.

It seems an excellent way to grow interest in the sport, educate future and present judges, and generally give this highly subjective sport some much needed gravitas.

Other big  dressage shows provide score-by-movement. It seems only right and fair that the Olympics—dedicated after all to sport and the absence of politics, yadda-yadda, should get on with it and provide this information.


Back after Tuesday’s Grand Prix Special.






The Grand Prix. London. Wow.

3 Aug


It was their day.


And it was his day too.


The Grand Prix is over and the team competition is, for now,

Great Britain



and then Denmark, United States, Spain, Sweden,Poland, Australia

Next Tuesday, the Grand Prix Special will be contested,and after that, team medals will be awarded.


But the big thing is that the bar has been raised.



Toto-and-Ed have been the gold standard,for sure. And how I miss them at these Games!

But today, Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, both coached by the inimitable Carl Hester (who of course rode Uthopia to current 5th place) , laid down a new Olympic record for the Grand Prix.

I wrote “Yes!” 33 times, one for each box of the Grand Prix score sheet.

83+ is the new bar, and I have a feeling it will go higher before the dressage competition is finished.


What set ‘Blueberry-and-Char” (as they will probably be known if not already) apart from the other rides was :

the easy,effortless willing manner–the horse just offers and Charlotte says thank you and they move on with impeccable transitions;

the glow, the glamour if you will, that just surrounds the top athlete of a category. Sort of like Ichimura in the men’s all-around gymnastics;

the harmony and partnership, the lack of hesitation, the scope of each movement.


Others can talk about specifics of this test. Will move on after saying that there is a book (I am looking at it right now), “The Olympic Dressage Test in Pictures” which features the legendary German rider and coach, Harry Boldt with Remus.

I think we are ready for the pictures to be updated now.



I was going to get on here and do a test-by-test thumbnail, but will wait until the Grand Prix Special is finished.

Looking at my notes, the thought keeps bubbling up that the GPS will be more decisive than this GP, where some very good combinations battled nerves, and a few others were over-scored just as a few were under-scored.

This will all be ‘tempest in a teapot’ until after the team competition is truly over, so will wait until then to join the fray, LOL.