are the Worlds Best Dressage Horses
bookings take on a new light where Linda Short is concerned. Her
clients have four legs not two, and have many special requirements.
This year she will 'up sticks' from her home in Wool, Dorset, and
relocate to a field in Sussex for two weeks in order to arrange
the accommodation for some very important equine visitors. For the
first time in 16 years the European Dressage Championships are being
held in Great Britain, and top riders from as far a field as Japan
and Australia are planning to attend. Closer to home, this is also
the last opportunity for our own national riders, and other nations,
to qualify for the 2004 Olympics so tension will be high.
Linda, a Patients Affairs Manager at Poole Hospital, has been Stable
Manager for Dressage at Hickstead, almost since its inception in
1993. 'Volunteered' by her daughter, Twiggy, when she was employed
by Show Director Dane Rawlins as a groom, and who confesses, "Dane
was looking for someone to manage the stabling at Hickstead, so
of course, being the ever helpful employee, I said, my mum could
"And the rest" comments Linda dryly, but with a sparkle
in her eye "is history. Together Twiggy and I take up residence
in a caravan which becomes our home for the duration of the show."
This year is, however, by far the largest, and most prestigious
competition the venue has presented, and Linda's responsibilities
are quite daunting. The stable compound affectionately known as
'Linda Land' provides five star accommodation for horses whose combined
value could probably purchase the most exclusive hotel in the world
twice over! Security is absolutely paramount. Woe betide anyone
who tries to enter without the right accreditation. Such is Linda's
dedication to her charges, - the one hundred and fifty competitors
from twenty different countries, their grooms, families and trainers,
that she will take up residence a full week before the competition
starts in order to ensure everything is in order. "I arrive
with my dust pan and brush and everyone says there goes Linda again,
but I need to know the caravan, which is our home, is in order,
then I can concentrate on the job in hand. The caravan becomes the
focus for everyone, and we supply just about every kind of service,
from sewing on buttons, manicures, dog-sitting, agony aunt, and,
supplying items of a more personal nature! - We are fully equipped,
and have the best ice-breaker in the world - a gnome who makes a
rather rude noise as people come in, but he always raises a smile,
no matter what time during the day, or night, the horses arrive,
or how long the journey has been."
Once her caravan is set up, Linda has a check-list to follow, which
to some may seem a trifle fastidious, but it's what helps to make
the event such a success. "These horses are so precious"
she says, "that very often the grooms will sleep in the adjacent
stable. I walk every inch of the stable compound to ensure there
are no nails in the ground, or anything, which may injure them.
I ensure the water supply is on, the security is in place, the fire
extinguishers are working and that all the paperwork is in order.
I am on duty twenty-four hours a day for the duration of the show,
and have been known, if I hear a restless horse to trot across the
compound in my nightie - usually blue with white polka dots, to
sort out a problem! Although it's an incredible responsibility,
and I get very little sleep, I love the show. We see the same competitors
every year, watch their children growing and we become friends.
The atmosphere at Hickstead is famous for the wonderful, friendly,
relaxed atmosphere amongst its competitors, which is mirrored, with
its spectators and fans. Once I drive through those gates, with
the flags flying, strange though it may seem, I relax!"
More information about the Championships is available on the website
www.edc2003.com. Tickets are
available from Ticketmaster on 0870 0602328 (24 hours) and at all
Ticketmaster ticket centres nationwide. Book online at www.ticketmaster.co.uk.
For Group bookings call 08705 94 94 94 94.