Pammy Hutton: Global dressage depends on judges *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    How is the dressage scene in your neck of the woods? Local to me, many classes are not full, scores are low and the general feeling is that it’s hard for the amateur to compete and enjoy.

    I’m afraid the onus is on the judges. Even when judging a less than brilliant test, please look for the slightly better — positivity counts for so much. You may be judging someone for whom this is their first dressage test. This rider could be froma country where our sport is still in its infancy. In fact, reading one such partnership’s test sheet recently made me want to jump on the next plane out of Britain — never mind the rider, who had travelled from Asia.

    Judges at the “ordinary” levels have a huge responsibility to nurture by praising even tiny good things. Dressage’s future global prospects could depend on your comments.

    Business know-how

    Years ago, I wrote about my concerns for the survival of riding schools. Today, running a riding school remains an idiot’s way to spend money. I should know; it’s what my family does. Nevertheless, I feel passionately that riding schools still hold the key to careers and, often, international success.

    When I began campaigning, there was little help for riding schools from the British Horse Society (BHS). Those who have kept going have done so alone. Here at Talland, we secured our government “Tier 4” status — enabling us to take overseas students — for ourselves. There should be a riding school of similar standing in every county. Then the BHS would make more money through exams, and BHS-qualified students would once again be recognised on the world stage.

    Well, at last, the atmosphere is changing. The new BHS exams are more practically based and so far, so good. Now the society needs to advise riding schools on how to gain and retain students.

    How many people in the horse world know what Tier 4 status means to a business? Or how important it is to the BHS, British Dressage, British Showjumping and British Eventing, because it means we can have students from abroad training and competing here in Britain — with all the revenue and contacts that delivers?

    We have the new exams, and renewed enthusiasm. Now let’s see the BHS inject a bit of commercial know-how into the riding schools that would like it. Such an initiative would serve the whole industry very well.

    Strictly dressage

    Don’t you just love a winter’s evening in front of Strictly Come Dancing? Love it or hate it, the parallels with dressage cannot be ignored: the training, the partnerships, the nerves, the bling… Shoulders back, keep your core strong and look ahead, the contestants are urged. They must combine musicality and flair, but never at the expense of technical accuracy.

    And, be aware, a chunky yet correct cob will often outpace a leggy blonde warmblood in pleasing knowledgeable judges.

    A magical fortnight

    Having had two weeks off, I’ve revised my views on horses’ holidays. Once an advocate of three- or four-day breaks, I now think longer rests could be better. Unless there’s a lameness, anything over three weeks is too long. For every week off, a week’s work is needed to regain fitness.

    So I’ve hit upon two weeks as the magic formula. After a fortnight off, the swelling had almost disappeared from my troublesome knee joint. But was it the rest, the swimming, perfect food, less stress or luck? Only time will tell.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 9 November 2017