Outsiders' chance to catch the eye

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The Independent Online

Britain's leading dressage riders will be all out to impress the selectors when they take part in a "viewing" session at Daylesford in Gloucestershire this morning.

Around a dozen Olympic hopefuls will ride a grand prix test in front of three judges: Britain's Stephen Clark and two Germans, Dr Dieter Schule and Katrina Wurs. Though the tests will be marked, there are no prizes on offer.

According to Jane Kidd, chairman of the selectors, one purpose of today's meeting is to "provide a level playing field which gives outsiders a chance to prove themselves." It will also give the selectors a clearer picture as they pick riders and horses for a variety of international competitions, where they will have a further chance to prove themselves.

Notwithstanding some notable absentees, there will be some impressive partnerships in action today. Particular interest will be focused on Carl Hester and Argentile Gullit, who showed good form on the recent Spanish Sunshine Tour to finish with a grand prix score of 69 per cent.

Thanks to training from Conrad Schumacher (made possible through lottery funding) British riders are achieving higher percentages. In pre-Schumacher days the British average was 62.5 per cent at championships; last year it had risen to over 67 per cent. Though unlikely to win a medal in Sydney, British riders are closing the gap on leading riders from Germany and the Netherlands. The opportunities now offered by the training programme has encouraged owners to buy some top-class horses, which has also helped to raise standards. Among the leading riders with new mounts on view today are Emile Faurie (Trocadero and Rascher Hopes), Emma Hindley (Wie Weltmeyer), Ferdi Eilberg (Morocco II) and Nicky Barrett (Giorgio S).