Riding at home daily can never cut the mustard for competing. So, as a trainer needing a reminder about the pressure of competition riding, I’m on a comeback campaign. OK, it’s a mini comeback, but it fits my mantra: teaching better, riding better and learning something new each day.
How hard it is to grow up; and harder still to grow old. Heaving myself into a tail coat, it’s clear that some bits of me are thinner, but lots of me is fatter — and it’s all met around my middle.
“Why are you competing, Pammy?” I was asked on arrival at our local venue. I’d rushed to Hunters having left the roast on the go — family comes first.
I want to do this, I’d convinced myself… until I spied three top team members I was sure wouldn’t be there.
There was almost an accident in my squeezed middle department. I can’t tell you how frightened I was, but Charlotte Dujardin couldn’t have been more helpful.
I was doing this to remind myself how sick with nerves one feels while warming up, how hard it is to remember the test, how easy it is to get rattled because the photographer moved, how challenging those piaffe/passage transitions are and how mentally and physically fit riders must be.
The judge was Jane Kidd, someone I truly respect, so her remark, “Great to see the older generation making a good job of this ultimate test” is one to treasure, as were most of the marks.
I so enjoyed my outing. At least no one can accuse me of being a keyboard warrior or armchair critic! Bring on the next one.
Nearing a Premier League show, I very nearly changed the bit and the saddle. Oh, don’t be stupid; how nerves can make one question one’s judgement. At this rate, it’s the rider who may need changing.
Well, 65% wasn’t as good as I’d hoped for. More “teeth and tits” are required, according to my daughter, Pippa.
But doing five tests in one week gave me a massive wake-up call and a whole pile of constructive advice from list one and international judges.
I’ve always said I’ll retire when I can’t ride because, for me, “feel” is the most important word in the language of equitation.
‘I was delighted to be proved wrong’
It was a much-discussed Badminton. On the subject of horsemanship, I unashamedly picked out Tom McEwen for looking after his horses so well, in and out of the saddle, and Harry Meade for preferring to go cross-country with feel rather than a stopwatch.
Some questioned whether Badminton needs an all-weather arena. But hang on, these are event horses. So let’s roll the going in breaks, please, and keep old-fashioned horsemanship alive. Maybe fewer horses would break down if they spent more time on the surface on which they gallop?
My Badminton ended with pride in a pupil who completed, despite me having declared some time ago: “If you qualify for Badminton, I’ll eat my hat because this horse has no walk, trot or canter.”
Months of training later, I was delighted to be proved wrong. How wonderful that sheer hard work can still pay off.
Badminton also gave me the chance to highlight today’s litigious atmosphere that makes it nearly impossible to teach riding without stirrups.
There I was in the main arena, having a no-pedals lesson from David Trott. If I can do it, everyone can. And there’s no better way to work on a better seat.
Ref Horse & Hound; 24 May 2018