Bigger. Better. BiggerBetterbiggerbetterbiggerbetter

7 Jan


NextOne Edward Gal/Next One


In 1984, the Los Angeles Olympics was a huge event. The remarkable re-appearance of U.S. Olympian Hilda Gurney and her legendary partner,Keen (after a long, mysterious neurological problem that paralyzed Keen) was a jump-start for interest in dressage in the U.S.  The Dutch team was Annemarie Sanders, Tineke Bartels, and Jo Rutten (3 major figures in international dressage)–but the 4th rider, the reserve, was Bert Rutten,  the 20 year old son of Jo. He went home without his reserve horse–it was sold to Germany during the Games.

If the internet existed back then, these would be stories that EVERYONE knows and appreciates.

Now, with the Olympics livestreamed and news reported almost as it happens, it is difficult to find awe and inspiration on a daily basis.

London Olympics, dressage found Carl Hester in a unique limelight — not only did he produce 2 of the 3 Olympic team gold  horses, he produced another rider,and the combination won Olympic individual gold and currently hold two of the three world records in the sport.

This past weekend, at the CDI 3*  Drachten (Holland), Edward Gal rode the winner of the small tour, Asther de Jeu, including a wonderful freestyle ride that was also their first. Despite some jitters, the mare gave proof of extraordinary talent and a willingness that made the partnership extra special.

In the Grand Prix tour, Edward rode his Olympic partner, Undercover, and showed that his faith in this remarkable athlete may be vindicated as the horse settled in to the test as the movements unrolled.

But perhaps the bigger story was the 2nd and 3rd place.

Second went to Edward on Next One, a Dutch gelding he took on at age 12, a small tour schoolmaster. The trainer of trainers, Herbert Rehbein, once said that the way to train a horse is ‘to find something to love about it, so you can reward it.’  The past few years, Next One, who turns 18 this year, has continued to develop into an international Grand Prix horse,and at  this show, he won both the GP and the freestyle with convincing,deserved scores.

Third in the Grand Prix and second in the freestyle was Hans-Peter Minderhoud on Lord of Loxley, a horse used to a rider’s long legs as he was shown this last year by Australian WEG team rider Brett Parbery. Here, with the extra training time and the truly superb riding of Minderhoud, the horse showed every inch why Parbery hoped to make his Olympic team last year.

Congratulations to the riders from Harskamp (now under contract to Glock) and  a great training program.


The Dutch are now considered one of  dressage sport’s titans, but of course it was not always that way. KNHS, the Dutch Equestrian Federation,  hashed out a plan that has taken them to the top. They have done this without the lottery funding that Great Britain currently enjoys.

In the U.S., Olympian Robert Dover produced the 2nd Emerging Dressage Athlete Program–aimed at younger dressage  riders, and endeavoring to give them the kind of support,information,and education that the highly successful Emerging Athlete Program (run by The Legend ,George Morris) offers to  younger hunter/jumper riders. Over several days, riders were given riding lessons, worked with a sports physio, farrier, media consultant, and generally prepared for athletic competition.

While USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) continues to moan about ‘needing more money’ and ‘needing more money’ and needing more –wait for it– money, Dover has found a way to get a major program off the ground.

So perhaps USEF needs to better balance how to find resources for programs as well as infrastructure.


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