The British Are Coming!

Aug 15, 2011 - 2:45 PM
Catherine Haddad Staller and Cadillac enjoyed their comeback at Hickstead, July 2011. Photo by Rui Pedro Godinho.

Dear Rita,

The warning cry of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride in 1775, although historically dubious, will resonate with credibility in contemporary times at the European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, next weekend. The Germans and the Dutch will feel the full power of that cry.

In Hickstead at the end of July, I was remarkably impressed by the work of Carl Hester and Uthopia, and Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro. Both horses are young, brilliant, fantastically ridden and a serious challenge to the dominance of the German and Dutch on the international dressage stage.

Uthopia, a dark brown 10-year-old Dutch stallion by Metall, measures in at 16.1hh, but measures up to over 80 percent in Grand Prix dressage. Owned by Sasha Stewart, and trained and ridden by Carl Hester, the horse is a study in straightness, throughness, correctness and brilliance. Carl is a master of the test, and I believe that this pair will give Totilas a run for his money—if not this year, then next. Mark my words, Rita.

Uthopia at Hickstead in the Grand Prix:

Valegro, a dark bay Dutch Gelding by Negro, is owned by Carl Hester and Rowena Luard, and ridden by Charlotte Dujardin. He is young, only 9 years old, and piloted by the talented but also young, Dujardin. Watch this pair for the future as well. They round out the third position on the British team (don’t forget Bechtolsheimer with Mistral) and they have already scored well above 75 percent in the Grand Prix at their last two outings—which means that if all goes well in Rotterdam, they can beat the third horse on the German team….

Suspense is building, Rita! Dressage being the predictable sport that it is, I would say that the British are indeed coming, and that the Germans might have to get out of the way. Great Britain is the only nation that can challenge the Germans newly regained supremacy after the purchase of Totilas.

I am a fan of Totilas and will remain so. I remember witnessing a few rides under Edward Gal that were not only spectacular, but also suspense building—they kept me on the edge of my seat.  Totilas is a horse that gets into piaffe and then gains impulsion and intensity to point where you ask yourself, “Can he hold it? Can he pull it off?” And when he does, he leaves you covered in goosebumps and fighting back tears.

But those magical moments are still missing under his new rider, Matthias Rath. He will have to work hard to ride Totilas with the brinkmanship that Edward Gal once did. I think he can do it, but I don’t know if he can do it before Rotterdam.

Carl Hester, on the other hand, is a consummate show rider who has the ability to pull out all the stops when it really counts. And when you watch Uthopia go, there are no “ifs” and “buts.” The horse comes as much from behind as he expresses himself in the front. Power and energy are accompanied by a correctness that is textbook perfect.

I know, Rita, that there are a few other horses which by reputation could possibly knock on Totilas’ door IF he has a bad day. Mistral Hojris with Laura Bechtolsheimer and Adelinde Cornelisson with Parzival are the two who come to mind. But if Totilas and Rath have their best ride at Rotterdam, the only horse that should beat them with his best ride is Uthopia.

I hope the judges are ready to see both of these horses on the day and judge them as they go, not as they have gone in the past. This would be my wish for the European Chmapionships! I’ll be tuning in on

I’m Catherine Haddad Staller, and I’m sayin it like it is from Gladstone, New Jersey.

Training Tip of the Day: Find your horse’s most expressive gear and make sure you can call it up on the short sides of the arena during your test.


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