2020 – The Most Extraordinary We Have Witnessed Since 1940s

2020 has been the most extraordinary we have all witnessed at least since the mid-1940s. Many countries have been in some form of ‘lock down’ since mid-March and as we review the sport horse year for both showjumping and dressage, two of the major European competing countries have just announced Christmas cancellation and a further complete lock down – Germany and The Netherlands. Therefore we find ourselves with far less to review than we would have expected.

So far as the UK has been concerned, there have been only two FEI competitions in the year, both for dressage and both held at Keysoe. The main trouble with the UK and I suspect in most other countries, the rules and regulations with regards to Corona Virus has been continually changed and with hardly any time for event organisers to re-schedule or make the necessary plans to accommodate the latest directives, so the general rule has tended to be ‘shut down’ until it is all over.

Hickstead Arena – bit not looking like this in 2020

Just in the UK, so many major events were cancelled. Just a few were of course The Royal Windsor Horse Show, the two Hickstead Internationals, the Hartpury Dressage International Festival, The Horse of the Year Show and the most recent and possibly the saddest, The London Olympia Horse Show which so many people love and enjoy. Those are just some of the major events cancelled. I suppose we should mention that only one CCI five star for eventing horse trials took place in the world in 2020 at Pau in France, with a greatly diminished number of competitors. In quick succession, Kentucky, Badminton, Burghley and Luhmhlen were all cancelled, thus depriving all of us horse enthusiasts some proper competition and entertainment. In the rest of Europe and of course The United States, all had to curtail their programmes with a huge number of cancellations. Even the Olympic Games had to be postponed, and as we write, we still cannot be sure that they will happen in 2021 instead?

Badminton is to go ahead in 2021 with the dressage and showjumping in front of the house

Anyway, looking on the bright side, there are several vaccines now, some with approval and being rolled out already, so by the time we get to next summer, things hopefully will be very much back on and we can all enjoy our sport once more. The Badminton Horse Trials, one of the earliest major world events, have already announced their intention to run, behind closed doors if necessary, but they are going to run. A great start!

For the highlights of 2020, we really have to go all the way back to January and February of the year when the World Cup Qualifiers were in full swing looking forward to a fantastic final in Las Vegas. The final of course never happened, but some the European venues gave us some great moments.

Dressage

Isabell Werth, Ranked number one and two in the world

In dressage, Isabell Werth from Germany was simply unstoppable in the international arena – on several different horses. She just kept on winning and she was ranked numbers one and two in the world then, and she still is. Isabell and her German team mates had a hard grip on the international dressage scene and would probably have won all the gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics, but the one thing the lock down has allowed other top riders to do is to bring on young top horses which just may upset the apple cart come July in Tokyo 2021. Charlotte Dujardin has two such horses, the well touted Mount St John Freestyle and her second ride and very young unexposed steed Gio, known at home as ‘Pumpkin’. This is not a big horse, but I think could well be Charlotte’s best ever. His movements are just awesome, as he showed in his first ever Grand Prix at Addington nearly a year ago now, gaining a very respectable 79.56%. Since then, there has been little opportunity for the combination to be seen out again, but you can be sure that the ever perfectionist Charlotte will have been honing down every movement and pace to as near perfection as can be done. Another rider, who was really coming to the fore early on the year was Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl, another German rider.

German Team – Will they take team Gold in Tokyo in 2021?

She too has been quietly getting some decent Grand Prix horses together and will certainly be one to watch on the coming year. In the world rankings, the top ten were from only three countries, Germany with six in the top ten, Denmark’s Catherine Dufour with two rankings at six and seven and at five was Charlotte Dujardin. Germany’s other top riders are Dorothee Schneider and Helen Langehaenberg. In tenth position was another from Denmark – Daniel Bachmann-Andersen.

Showjumping

Steve Guerdat. Switzerland. Current World Number One again

In showjumping, the story of the year was much the same as the dressage – no shows! Again, like the dressage the World Cup Qualifying rounds gave much promise in the very early part of the year. The Amsterdam qualifier saw a really close run contest with Mark Houtzanger taking the top spot from Harrie Smolders – both Dutch. Although based in Germany, Irishman Denis Lynch made music in Verona riding Chopin, taking the honours there. Other riders showing promise early on were Marin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat, both from Switzerland and who spent the early months of the year in Wellington in the USA. Although international riders did get out a bit during the year, the World rankings, rather unsurprisingly ended the year much as they started. Numbers one and two were Swiss, with Steve Guerdat at the top with Martin Fuchs just behind. In third was Germany’s Daniel Deusser, who rode some really brilliant early rounds in January and February around the circuit. Peder Fredricson was fourth from Sweden and Pieter Devos from Belgium occupies the fifth place. Both Ben Maher and Scott Brash from the UK appear in the list at sixth and eighth positions respectively and Kent Farrington and Lizzie Madden from the USA appear at number seven and nine respectively. The final name to appear in the final rankings of 2020 is Darragh Kenny from Ireland at number ten.

Regrettably, 2020 has altogether been a difficult and depressing year and we all look forward to a more fruitful experience in 2021. Although some shows have already been cancelled for next year, hopefully as the year goes on and the vaccine is given and permeates through the world’s population from January onwards, we can expect much more action and be able to attend events in person. Here’s hoping!

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