Hickstead Makes Britain 4th Country to Join European Dressage Nations Cup Test Circuit

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Dane Rawlins competing on Sydney in 2012. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Dane Rawlins competing on Sydney in 2012. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Hickstead, Britain’s premier dressage show, will stage a Nations Cup CDIO3* in August as part of a European circuit of four competitions this summer to test a prospective new series to draw more fans to the sport.

The Nations Cup at Hickstead from Aug. 1 to 4 joins the lineup of the three shows already committed to the series–Vidauban, France with a CDIO3* May 16-19, and Rotterdam, Netherlands June 19-23 and Aachen, Germany June 25-30, both CDIO5* events.

The decision by Hickstead founder and organizer Dane Rawlins to join the test circuit came after Wilfried and Ursula Bechtolsheimer pledged support. The 5* Nations Cup is required to offer a minimum of €20,000 (US$26,400) in prize money for the team competition and the 3* a minium of €10,000 (US$13,200).

The Nations Cup not included in the circuit this year was Wellington, Florida CDIO3* because it comprises teams of mixed big and small tour horses and was intended to test raising the level of Pan American Games dressage to Grand Prix.

The International Equestrian Federation’s Dressage Committee created the series based on the shows at Rotterdam and Aachen that have long staged team competitions and is testing the new circuit in an attempt to generate the interest and excitement of the jumping Nations Cups.

A new format is being implemented whereby aach event can choose whether Grand Prix or the Freestyle is used for the Nations Cup competition instead of the traditional system of the Grand Prix.

Vidauban, Rotterdam and Aachen will use the Grand Prix as the Nations Cup while the Hickstead event will by the Freestyle.

Moorlands Totilas and Edward Gal at Hickstead in 2009. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Moorlands Totilas and Edward Gal at Hickstead in 2009. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Dane Rawlins after following his father into boxing, tried racing and jumping before switching to dressage.

He founded dressage at Hickstead in 1993 to host Nations Cup and as much as anything to meet a challenge by the larger than life Douglas Bunn who created the All England Jumping Course which has hosted a jumping Nations Cup and major Grand Prix for several years.

Dane’s organization hosted the Junior and Young Rider European Dressage Championships in 1998 and the highly praised European Championships in 2003. He also ran the British Young Riders scheme for several years.

The 2003 Europeans cost about £1 million (US$1.55 million) and drew about 8,500 spectators each day and had about 250 trade stands.

The World Dressage Masters he and his wife staged featured the superstar stallion Totilas ridden by Edward Gal and other top combinations in 2009 that brought big crowds to Hickstead including Ringo Starr and other celebrities.

Totilas drew celebrities like Ringo Starr in 2009. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Totilas drew celebrities like Ringo Starr in 2009. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

However, the CDI5* was canceled in 2012 because it’s date was too close to the Olympics in London and heavy rain flooded parts of the facility.

The 56-year-old, a top international show organizer, believes dressage is heading in the right direction because of riders, trainers and organizers that he feels close to being a trainer and international competitor, for Ireland.

Riders, he said, need to be promoted as elite figures but the sport should not adopt the mantle of elitism.

And he believes the format of judging needs to take a leaf out of ice skating and gymnastics by overhauling the system to provide for deductive scoring with the right of instant appeal.