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Heather Currie: Grand Prix Dressage

So what’s changed in the world of dressage? We asked HEATHER CURRIE for her expert opinion.

The type of horse has definitely changed. We’ve gone for a really modern looking horse and moved away from the heavier, old-fashioned Warmblood type. We’re seeing that the best horses in the world are actually very beautiful looking horses in terms of type – I think that’s been a big improvement over the years.

The tests themselves have remained quite similar with the components of the Grand Prix pretty much the same. It’s just that the execution is getting better and more refined. We’re seeing less and less of the top rider’s aids.

Heather and her Florencio import Fred Perry.

In Australia the sport is definitely on the up, but a lot of the people who are successful in Europe are based over there rather than here. How can we get that experience back? As far as the quality of the horses goes, we’re able to produce some amazing horses but we’ve still got to be able to train them to be competitive against other nations, rather than sending them overseas.

Judging over the years has changed and people are ensuring the horse’s welfare is number one, which is the most important thing. But what I didn’t like about the Rollkur [hyperflexion of the neck] situation was the way the public turned against some riders. Anky van Grunsven was the dressage champion of the world and everyone’s darling, and I did not like the turn of foot and the way the public attacked her.

Social media has been both positive and negative. It’s used in so many different ways now and can be very misleading about what’s really happening in the sport.

For example, riders may ride a trained Grand Prix horse that’s been produced by someone else and suddenly they’re promoted as Grand Prix riders and giving lessons.

Wunderbar Black 59, Heather’s Mr Darcy.

I’ve seen that a lot, it’s all social media hype and instant success. I absolutely applaud people who buy a schoolmaster to learn on, but I question whether the riders who have purchased a Grand Prix horse without having produced a horse to that level themselves have the same experience as someone who has undergone the whole process. It could be an issue for up and coming riders who may not have the funds behind them to purchase a ‘made ’horse, as the steps that are involved in producing a young horse to Grand Prix are different to just riding the movements.

The process of training a horse right through the grades is an experience that can’t be bought.