Olympia London International Horse Show debuted a new format for FEI Dressage World Cup™ last night. The two-year pilot project is intended to engage the audience and widen appeal while maintaining traditional dressage values and a high level of competition.
“This new format is not a gimmick or a theatrical experiment. I have been convinced, for some time, that Dressage in the World Cup Series has been under-performing against its potential,” said Olympia’s Show Director, Simon Brooks-Ward. “Unashamedly – and I believe quite rightly – we want to make the Grand Prix evening at Olympia as meaningful, relevant, and exciting as the Freestyle night. Two cracking nights of elite competition will do a lot to improve dressage’s visibility amongst those who have not been initiated into the complexities of the sport.”
The new format includes five key changes to the grand prix:
- The grand prix test now includes music, selected for each rider by a professional musical director.
- The new grand prix test has fewer movements, is more technical, and is performed in under five minutes.
- Spectators are able to able to judge alongside, comparing their marking skills to those of the official judges.
- At the conclusion of each test, the rider remains in the arena to watch the judge’s scores.
- Each rider discusses his or her performance during a short interview in front of the audience.
Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock's Dream Boy N.O.P.
During last night’s FEI Dressage World Cup™ Grand Prix, supported by Horse & Hound, the Netherland’s Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock's Dream Boy N.O.P. scored a 73.895% to win at Olympia for the first time. Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain, rode Hawtins Delicato to second place on 73.026%. Frederic Wandres of Germany aboard Duke of Britain placed third with 72.623%.
The press conference consisted of much discussion regarding the new format. Here is what these three experienced riders had to say:
Hans Peter Minderhoud
“It’s new and you’re not really used to it to get off the horse and have a talk instead of cool down and walk and pet the horse. So that was a little different, but when the scores came up it was a really cool moment.
“I quite like it when you can come in and you can canter and you can trot forward and you have an extension first and you’re really in the flow to start with the movements… [In the new test] it’s a lot of turning in the beginning. For my feeling it took a little while to get in the rhythm. I think it’s good to see to get it more attractive but I think we have to improve the test. Especially the half-passes are really short and I think it’s really nice if you can do the big half-pass across the arena.”
“Very few horses can cope with this sort of environment. When you ride around the edge it does feel like the crowd can touch you, but it’s the most incredible feeling as a rider to ride in that arena.
“The test I think, for me, it rides really fast. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s new. I find halting at the bottom, straight into the half passes, it’s not easy to get flowing and going. Normally you do the extension and feel like you can get going, use the short side to set up for the movement, but it’s kind of quick coming.
“I think it’s great for the crowd to be behind us to get how we feel. Obviously it’s so new. As you get off your horse sweating and have a camera in your face with a microphone and answer questions straight away, you’re kind of a bit taken aback. Again, probably something we’ve got to get used to. I think as time goes on you get more confident to do it.”
“I have to say I was a little bit more nervous this time to ride the grand prix than the other grands prix because everything was new. But in the end I have to say, my feeling in the riding was fluid. But I know the opinions from Charlotte and Hans Peter, it always depends on the horse you have a little bit. I understand completely with the stallion that you want to go forward but with my horse I had a good feeling. I came into the test with a fluid feeling.”
Olympia is already known for creating a brilliant vibe in an intimate arena that makes the spectators feel up-close-and-personal with the competitors. With the bright lights, closely following cameras, and looming video screens of the first night of competition, it felt more like a Hollywood movie premiere than a horse show. However, the President of the Ground Jury Katrina Wüst felt that this atmosphere has what it takes to to bring dressage into the spotlight, comparing the publicity of other international sports like fútbol, whose athletes are constantly viewed on television and in printed and digital media.
“The whole package was wonderful. I think we have to create stars and we can only create stars by making them visible to the public, make them talk, make them show,” Katrina said. “I think that is what we have to get better.”
Photos by Sophie Harris.
Written by Leslie Threlkeld
Having grown up on horseback, Leslie Threlkeld, Managing Editor at NOËLLE FLOYD, treasures her career in the equestrian industry as a writer, photographer, and eventing technical delegate. Leslie thrives on frequent travel but never tires of returning home to the serene mountains of North Carolina.