This comment starts, not ends, with fond remembrance of Diana Mason. Her accolades are endless and have been well written about. But I loved her simply and with gratitude for her correctness, humour, forthrightness, bluntness, truthfulness, advice, patience, love of her horses and friends — and for her energy.

Diana once banned me, and rightly so, from British Dressage’s forerunner when she was its chairman. It was 40 years ago and I’d made the huge mistake of competing on a horse that wasn’t the one I’d entered. I’d forgotten to swap them, didn’t read the board and it looked like I was running a ringer.

She helped me become part of all that I am today. She knew her stuff and was often a source of inspiration for this column — well, the good bits, anyway!

I so miss talking to Diana every week — and occasionally being told off by her. Please let her legacy be that we all remember how much can be learnt from the experienced.

Strong foundations

The Winter Dressage Championships ran like clockwork at Hartpury.

Being involved with a prelim entry reminded me how exciting it is just to qualify and compete there. With a new baby left with Mum, and Shetland pony as travelling companion for her horse, the whole experience was an adventure for my Scottish pupil. True championship opportunities for everyone at the base of the pyramid are fundamental to a strong pinnacle.

Spring shape-up

OK, I’m going to use the F word — fat. So un-PC has the term become that a certain four-letter expletive probably gets more airing. But such is the size of the obese elephant in the room, that “fat” needs saying.

We all know the dangers of being too fat: lethargy, lack of performance and strain on joints, heart and lungs. The same goes for our horses, except they don’t have the privilege of choosing how much exercise to take or food to eat.

Some of ours are wobbling after a mild winter when the grass just kept on growing. It’s never too soon to do something about it. Maybe it would help if we all started referring to “fat” instead of “condition”?

And as for fat riders… That arrow on the scales keeps telling me I’m overweight. It’s so hard not to be, yet we can only function properly in the saddle with fit bodies and bums that don’t bulge over it.

I’m enjoying riding my four-year-old, although the odd buck makes me wish I were younger and slimmer. Now where is that banana diet that worked last time?

Warm-up wusses?

“Why don’t ponies have their own warm-up?” was overheard in a warm-up arena recently.

Get real and get used to it, grown-ups! And come on, children and ponies — give the oldies a run for their money! You have as much right to be there as everyone else.

As Pony Club participation appears to deplete, numbers of pony riders competing at adult competitions are set to swell. Nevertheless, the Pony Club Rider Development pathway is one initiative that bodes well for the future. Details can be found on the Pony Club’s website www.pcuk.org; I’ve already met several having a go.

Spooking in style

Finally, how about this judging story? A pupil of mine was doing a test that includes an 8m circle. The horse was spooking so badly, the rider completely forgot the circle before the shoulder in. Despite this, the circle was given a 6 — although it was suggested more bend was needed!

Ref: Horse & Hound; 21 April 2016