According to most dressage trainers, riders and judges the Global Dressage Forum turned out to be the best of the 7 Forums, held until now in Hooge Mierde, the Netherlands. The program on 29-30 October focused on training methods, the marketing of the sport, scientific projects on animal welfare and the kür to music. Trainer Jean Bemelmans, presenting a clinic on ‘flexible training’ and piano celebrity Wibi Soerjadi turned out to be the stars of this event. Soerjadi explained about his cooperation with dressage rider Imke Schellekens Bartels and played his grand piano. The audience of 350 representatives of the ‘dressage in crowd’ were impressed and emotionally touched. 

Another spectacular item was the presentation of Frank Kemperman, sport director of CHIO Aachen and Joep Bartels, ex World Cup director. Dressage sport needs changes, that was Kemperman’s and Bartels’ message. Kemperman and Bartels stated that clear structures are of great importance. According to them, these days there are too many dressage tournaments whose significance is very difficult to convey to the public. Thus, the World Cup with four or five events should be emphasized more vigorously as a clear highlight of the winter season. In summer, an official series of three or four tournaments should be established. “This series”, said Kemperman, “could simultaneously constitute the European Championships.” Furthermore, Kemperman proposed to shorten the length of the single rides and said that more top athletes should be able to live on their sport, because: “We have too many amateurs, we need more professionals.”

Australian scientist Andrew Mclean gave a presentation on current research on animal welfare. His subject was ‘learned helplessness’, and his conclusion was that this kind of behaviour is not evident in top sport dressage horses. During a panel discussion this conclusion was supported by the world famous trainer Monty Roberts, the ‘man that can talk to horses’. On training methods in dressage there were a brilliant clinic by Spanish National trainer Jean Bemelmans, who presented team riders Jordi Domingo and Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz. German trainer Johann Hinnemann presented a clinic with Coby van Baalen. They were praised for their courage to openly discuss the current problems that have arised when van Baalen was photographed, lungeing a pony in a roll kür position during the European Championships for pony’s in France. Also a clinic was presented by ex jumping world champion Franke Sloothaak, who showed his dressage abilities with one of his Grand Prix jumping horses. A lively debate took place during the evaluation of the judging at the European Championships in Turin, presented by some top judges chaired by Olympic judge Stephen Clarke. The conclusion of this 7th Global Dressage Forum was evident: more representatives then ever from 24 countries took part, and the debate was more open then ever before. The traditional closed circle of dressage seems to open up slowly. 

See the February issue of Horse Sport for a detailed report by Karen Robinson.