Over the years I have been fortunate to watch the best of the best prepare and compete, not only as a competitor but also as the wife to one of the top riders in the world and friend to many of my competitors. Spending time behind the scenes has taught me so much and is a topic that has become more thought-provoking of late.
Whilst each individual has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, I’ve noticed each nation at the top does things slightly differently.
The focus and preparation for their team for the World Championships in their home country in 2022 was second to none. Goals for their performances were set years in advance and step by step they followed their plan to ultimate gold.
Speaking to Cathrine Dufour, she explained to me that straight after the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, the testing began to identify emerging talented combinations to assist them to be ready for Herning. Essentially, they wanted more than just two to three talented combinations able to get top scores to assist in team performance and developed the talent with this focus.
Cathrine says for her this is really where the Danish stand out, as they recognise they don’t have the depth of combinations in numbers compared to other nations, such as Germany. So they test combinations at specific shows and find the best way to develop and support that combination specifically.
Horse security was also key for Denmark. Even when horses were sold with the potential to be on the team, arrangements were made to have the horse secured for the Championships.
With regards to behind the scenes, the Danish really practise as a team and do regular clinics in different environments, including competition facilities. They work hard to be prepared for anything. Surrounding their team with advice from judges, the eyes and experience of Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, mental coaches, etc., they want to ensure they leave nothing to chance and are prepared.
After the World Championships, a new approach has been implemented with the aim of the 2024 Olympics. The Danish now wish to utilise an expert team of individuals within the international dressage elite, and not focus on one elite trainer, with their “expert trainer” named as Wolfram Wittig. This will be interesting to observe after so much success with the system they have implemented for years, and which is envied by many other nations.