An Equine Adventure in Olympia:
As a horse lover and keen rider, it was brilliant to see the top dressage stars perform in the FEI World Cup™ Dressage right in front of me at the Olympia Horse Show instead of watching on the TV. To do this as a VIP guest with the FEI just made the evening an even more amazing experience.
We arrived in time to see Charlotte Dujardin demonstrate the movements of dressage with commentary explaining what she was doing. Charlotte Dujardin, CBE is the most successful British elite dressage rider in the history of the sport and the winner of all major titles and world records in the sport. Dujardin has been described as the dominant dressage rider of her era.
The FEI, International Federation for Equestrian Sports, hosted the evening and treated us to champagne, a four-course dinner all while viewing the event from a VIP box which afforded great views of the dressage ring.
The event is always the highlight of the international dressage calendar and attracts some of the world’s best dressage horses and riders, many of whom competed at the Olympics in Rio last year. Amongst these are the British riders: Hayley Watson-Greaves, Richard Davison, Emile Faurie, Gareth Hughes and Lara Butler. Besides being the most spectacular events of equestrian sports, the FEI World Cup™ Dressage is also a very glamorous event, which serves as a meeting point between lifestyle, fashion and sport. It often sees the attendance of many celebrities, including members of the most important European Royal families.
Dressage is somewhat of a mystery to a lot of people and yet it is such a special sport and beautiful art that with a little bit of understanding the most non-horsy person would appreciate it once they have seen it and learnt a little more. Some of the questions our fellow non-horsey dinners asked were: Do they dance like that naturally? Can all horses do that? Why does it look like the rider is doing nothing? Do the horses enjoy it? Well, we had fun trying to explain and there is not enough space to do so here. But here is a snippet of what it’s all about.
The FEI World Cup™ Dressage series, now in its 33rd season, is the most prestigious individual competition in the sport. Combining precision, athleticism and the ultimate partnership between horse and rider, dressage athletes worldwide compete across four leagues: Western European, Central European, North American (including Canada) and Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Asia), with just 20 qualifying through to the glittering finale to try to take home this ultimate accolade, this season to be in Paris April 2018. Each FEI World Cup™ Dressage qualifier consists of a Grand Prix test, which in turn is a qualification for the awe-inspiring Freestyle to Music competition, where league points are accumulated towards places in the Final.
During the interval we were asked if we would like to visit backstage, they didn’t have to ask twice. I knew this would mean seeing the warm-up/practise arena, the stables and the riders and horses close up.
It was quite surreal seeing the stables in a place where I had seen other exhibitions from Boat Show, Wedding Shows and Triathlons. Now real horses with the smell of hay and clean leather and the thud of hooves as the horses warmed up.
The top dressage horses are creatures of great beauty and quite majestic. Given they are worth so much and require careful looking after the head vet was watching the visitors very closely and we didn’t stay long!
There is also a lot of equipment that goes with dressage and the horses have their very own ‘closets’ and kit boxes but I have never seen something quite so beautiful and organised. I’m told it was Michael Whitaker’s?
Round the next corner were the Shetlands who will have been on the programme at some point during the Horse Show. Every stable had been decorated in a different theme and we had lots of fun seeing what they were.
They included a Bush Tucker Trial, AKA I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of here! Alice through the Looking Glass, Christmas spectacle and many more.
The tiniest and youngest was a miniature Shetland who was just adorable and gave everyone some pre-Christmas love.
After the interval we were back to see the final rounds and in London – They say it’s never over until the fat lady sings, and at tonight’s FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2017/2018 Western European League qualifier at Olympia in London when it seemed Sweden’s Patrick Kittel already had it in the bag, along came GB’s Emile Faurie with a last-to-go ride that almost overtook the league leader.
At one point the British riders were holding the top three places but Edward Gal’s big moving stallion, Glock’s Zonik, produced some breath-taking extensions and mesmerising trot-work, but a couple of mistakes including a break in the one-tempi changes left them looking vulnerable. In total contrast Kittel and Delauney, the 11-year-old gelding produced a flawless performance.
The suspense and concentration was palpable and after the awards, we were treated by after an electrifying victory gallop during which Kittel “high-fived” loads of spectators on his tour of the iconic Grand Hall.
The final result was
1. Delaunay OLD (Patrik Kittel) SWE 80.560
2. Delatio (Emile Faurie) GBR 80.405
3. Glock’s Zonik (Edward Gal) NED 79.340
The whole event was an amazing experience and extra special and a privilege to visit backstage and the stables. If you get the chance, go and experience the beautiful and skilful dressage horses and rider
London-Unattached was a guest of FEI for this event.