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24Dec 14

Strictly Come Dancing and dressage to music

Yes, I have watched every single one of the Strictly Come Dancing shows and loved it. Yes, it is more than glittery and the tango's are not as passionate as they should be, the jokes are not very funny but to watch non-dancers grow into dancers and with that the physical and emotional struggle is a very exciting thing to watch. The partakers are called celebrities these days which adds to the show in more than just the fact that we know them from telly, radio, You Tube or downloaded on our iphone. We can watch people we generally look up to, as their work is connected to some form of stardom, turn into humble, to the point of insecure, human beings, dying for a bit of approval from the four judges. Maybe I am naive but it seems to me that their enthusiasm and commitment to stay in it as long as possible is real, just as their disappointments and occasional tears are.

Judge Craig is the tough one who pulls the technique apart before he allows his emotions to come in. Judge Bruno occasionally falls from his chair as his exuberance gets the better of him. The other two judges Darcey and Len are seated in the middle which also represents their comments, kind with a hint of criticism.

Last night in the final Craig at some point compared Frankie to a horse and it did not sound complimentary; Frankie very quick-witted whinnied back at him.

This week English dressage-star Charlotte Dujardin together with her beautiful Valegro piaffed, passaged and pirouetted themselves into another record-braking first position at Olympia. I wonder when the next discussion about dressage judges will come to explosion. Has it got worse since the music was added to Grand Prix dressage or is that my imagination? At the moment the freestyle entered the competitive dressage world a whole new set of emotions arrived with it. Until then judges might be somewhat more partial to a certain type of horse but it was all about technique and the quality of the expected movements. Music is so personal and has made dressage at times a bit of a tear-jerking  experience, to put it bluntly.

Judges are people, yes, with a certain competence, but still people. Many years ago it was riders Christine Stuckelberger and Reiner Klimke who made my hart beat faster (still without music), then Anky von Grunsven and Isabell Werth, Edward Gal was the first one to make me sob and now  Charlotte is having a similar effect. It is not possible to keep some form of personal emotion out of the freestyle as that is the whole idea. That is what has made dressage so popular, also for people who have never done it and/or will never do it themselves. 

I so hope that the politics are never going to ruin the sport. Only then is it possible for the difference between scores of judges such as Strictly judges Craig and Bruno to keep each other in balance and for dressage riders to be able to live with the fact that at the end of the day it can never be as clean and clear as show-jumping.  



Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.


My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.