Hip Hip Herning: Tree Hugging Paparazza

Wed, 08/21/2013 - 12:26
2013 European Dressage Championships

This morning I had put my alarm at 7 am but slept "late" until 8 because I thought I had earned that extra hour after a first few long work days. I jumped out of bed, posted my Hip Hip Herning I wrote yesterday evening and browsed Facebook to catch the latest tidbits, before I went downstairs for a good break fast in the hotel.

While sitting at the table, I check the news and was intrigued to read an interview in Online FOCUS with Ludger Beerbaum who was bitching and moaning about show jumping standing in the shadow of dressage here in Herning, because the jumpers lost their prime-time spot to dressage and now had to do their Nations' Cup on Wednesday morning and Finals on Saturday instead of Sunday. With dressage selling out here at the Championships, and not show jumping, it sounds more than logical to me that it gets centre stage and the best time slots! Quod erat demonstrandum!

Another topic on the omni-present Facebook caught my eye, namely a major complaint of the caped crusadors of the anti-rollkur alliance that two of the warm up arenas are not accessible to spectators despite promises of the organizers that all warm up rings would be "viewable" for the spectators.

On 17 June the organizers of the European Championships issued a press release soothing spectators that they can take photos and videos of the riders in all warm up areas. In their release they wrote, "If you as a spectator want to see the warm-up area you are welcome to do so. The organisers have placed the warm-up in such a way that everyone can enjoy the riders' work sessions with their horses."

Ohlala, naughty naughty! Two warm up rings have been placed in the middle of the stabling area, which is only accessible to the riders, trainers, grooms and those lucky few (press) people with good connections who can get a second pass to enter the stables. 

As a spectator you can indeed stand behind a fence and watch those arenas from 25 meters away, but a coffee place has been conveniently set up on the left so half the view is actually blocked. If you are persistent and want to see what happens in those rings, you can, but you'll have to become a tree hugger and climb through the shrub and plants to squeeze yourself in between the bushes and the steel fence. I did spot a potential crusador over there taking snaps with the iphone and I decided I'd give it a try as well. Everything in the name of journalism, right? 

I do have a 300 mm lens, which is about 40 centimeters long, so there was hardly any room left for me to stand but it does enable me to take shots of the ring without the bars interfering with the view. When I was there Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin, Helen Langehanenberg and Edward Gal were riding alongside 10 other riders. It was a busy affair, but the dressage riders had not other choice in venue. There are four warm up rings on the show grounds, where spectators can stand and move freely about and two "private" ones in the stable area. This morning the main warm ups were occupied by the para riders and show jumpers who were in competition, so the dressage riders were forced to school near the stables.

I put my finger on the pulse and checked with a few riders. I did hear words that some of them have decided to warm up in that area and then go straight into the show ring, instead of using the public warm-ups. On the one hand this is a pity because with their choice for "discretion" they prove there might be something to hide, but on the other hand I can totally understand some riders who also fear and want to avoid unfounded criticism from Facebook fanatics. As soon as a horse comes behind the vertical, the crusadors cry blue murder without distinguishing the difference between rollkur, LDR, behind the vertical, a hard and a soft contact. My jaw dropped once when  I read an article in which Hester was talking about the benefits of a long and deep warm up and he was immediately labelled a rollkur rider online. From personal experience I can tell that I have never ever seen Hester pull his horse in an LDR position, or rollkur at a show, so why brand him as such? Same with Kyra Kyrklund, one photo of her horse in a low stretched frame and she's a rollkur rider? Please!

I spent about 30 minutes there and besides a couple of very round horses (with soft contact) I did not see any yanking nor kicking nor heavy pulling (the old school rollkur method of elbows-behind-back-hanging-into-the-bit) at the time. But for each dressage individual the bar lies somewhere else in this matter. Eurodressage has always been for a light, soft contact and harmonious riding and in our opinion the only persons who can set that RIGHT standard are the judges, not the FEI stewards! But that's a whole other article...

Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - No Reproduction Allowed

Related Link
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2013 European Dressage Championships