fter only one day’s rest it was straight back to business, for the second week of Vidauban. Luckily the gorgeous weather continued,with warm days and clear skies.
Brett Parbery stayed on for the second week, but Hayley set off back to Germany, for a stallion show. Brett was asking me what was the attraction of staying down here for long periods of time. After joining us for a Sunday lunch with some of our local friends, I think he was starting to get the gist of it… Wild boar and snails cooked by our friend who is French and a professional chef, washed down with copious quantities of the local wine seemed to convince him that this is a very nice place to be stuck for a while. This nearly became reality however when Brett’s truck refused to go at the end of the competition, and he had to stay an extra couple of days. Our Swedish friend’s groom broke her foot also while loading the truck, so we learnt two important lessons. Don’t get sick or have any issue requiring a mechanic in the south of France. The hospital is two hours away and no doctor will see you even if you are dying, and the mechanic never turned up after waiting two days. The groom was taken back to Sweden with strong drugs and no treatment, and Brett had to fix the truck himself, and left with a dodgy battery and dodgy breaks. I hope he gets there!
Back to the competition. For me I think two weeks with virtually no break or chance to train was a bit of a mistake. Sancette did a nice solid GP but lacked a bit of the sparkle of the first week, although he still did a good job in the Kür, to finish equal sixth with Brett, but again not with the energy of his week one test. Brett on the other hand improved his performance considerably the second week, and seemed much more together with his horse, with less mistakes, and a more fluent test. Lord of Loxley and Sancette finished very close in both tests.
One of the highlights of the second week, was the performance of the Japanese rider, Hiroshi Hoketsu, and the Hannoverian, Whisper.
After securing his place as an individual competitor, for Japan, with a good performance in the Grand Prix, he went on to convincingly win the GP Special with 72.53%. His coach , Ton De Ridder, said he absolutely went for broke in the special, and pulled off one of his best tests ever. At seventy-one years young, he is rather an inspiration, and makes me think what an amazing sport dressage is, where men and women, with up to 50 years age difference can compete on equal terms with each other. The second place getter in the special, is one young man you will be seeing a lot more of. Michael Eilberg, on the lovely grey mare Half Moon Delphi, performed a lovely expressive test, with a super piaffe passage tour. I first noticed this horse, when she won at the CDN when I competed at Addington, recently. She won convincingly there, and will be one to watch as a possible British team member, for London…
Another horse that is new on the scene and placed well in both the Grand Prix and the Special was another son of the Sandro Hit, Sancisco, ridden by Armenian rider, Carrie Schropf. This horse caught my eye in training, and is drop dead gorgeous. His owners sold him out of Germany, after the German FN refused to allow him to compete internationally, unless under a big name rider. Rather than giving his regular rider the sack, who had trained him and competed him to GP with very high National scores, they chose to sell to a rider who could show him internationally. This situation could be a clue as to why Germany has slipped on the international scene, as new outside riders are not encouraged, and given a fair chance. Over the last two weeks I have seen many new and interesting combinations from countries that are really new to dressage at a top level. It is very encouraging to see dressage as a truly global sport, and very important to see this growth, if dressage is to stay in the Olympics.
On my return to the UK I will be competing at the Addington CDI, where I believe all the contenders, for the British team will be present with their number one horses. With a gold medal firmly in their sights, this should be a very high-class field, We stay on here for one more week, and then set off for the two day trip back to the UK for more training. Stay tuned for my next blog which will be in a couple of weeks after Addington.
Dane Rawlins (organiser of Hickstead) and my husband, Rob catching up.
Photos thanks to Carol Newby.