Pammy Hutton FBHS, an international competitor and trainer of Olympic and Paralympic medallists, sharers her thoughts on the Tokyo 2020 action and the future of Olympic dressage
THE Tokyo Olympics was oceans away, yet in a way we were all there, glued to our TVs, computers and phones.
I’m kicking myself for turning down a trip to the Tokyo Paralympics, but Covid, and the possibility of 10 days’ quarantine, was a risk too far for me and Talland.
Out at the Olympics, Lottie Fry’s tests with the 12-year-old Everdale had us crying with joy. Their performances were light, forward, bold and beautiful. OK, Everdale’s neck could be more forward and down a little bit, but the overall partnership shone with potential.
There’s almost no dressage expert who doesn’t love Carl Hester, his riding and training. The outstanding harmony between him and En Vogue
was there for all to see in every footfall.
The Portuguese team set another big foundation stone on the Lusitano evolution. The beautiful, easy partnership of Rodrigo Torres with Fogoso, who was my “take-home horse” of the Games, caught my eye.
I enjoyed the commentary from John Kyle on Discovery+, while his co-commentator Lucinda Green’s views on dressage were also refreshing.
Day two in Tokyo saw Charlotte Dujardin and Gio rock. Theirs was an absolutely fabulous test and, in my book, it was slightly under-marked. There was power plus softness – watch out world.
Overall, I felt the judging in Tokyo was consistent. I checked every page, every movement, every horse. Of course, there were differences, but no howlers. Yet the rows on social media started.
Were some combinations showing too much tension? Were some riders’ hands over-strong? Unless it’s perceived to be welfare-friendly, we can kiss goodbye to dressage being deemed worthy of a place in the Olympics.
Equestrianism is hugely expensive to include in the Games; dressage as a sport must watch its back to remain on the world stage. We certainly can’t afford signs of force in finished products.
The team competition was thrilling, with the US marking the German card. Britain, so full of promise, collected bronze. Germany scored 8,178 marks, and the Brits 7,723. The difference between the scores is the work that is needed to change the colour of the medal.
By freestyle day, the whole nation was hooked and riding was “in”. Sky News invaded to do an item about riding schools. We decided to leave Talland unnamed in the piece, but a riding school is surely where a future gold medallist will come from.
Years ago, Carl told me to watch Charlotte riding an advanced medium at a local show. Her test looked fairly unremarkable.
“Watch this one,” he said. “She will win more medals than anyone else ever has.” And he was right.
When will Carl be knighted for all he has done for dressage? This man gives so much to so many, often privately, and supports charities, too. There are so many people out there who have been inspired by the Hester magic.
Britain’s medal-winning performance in Tokyo – remarkably achieved by a team with three horses and one rider making Olympic debuts – was proof of how far the sport has come in this country.
Over two weeks at Hartpury this summer we enjoyed the Winter Championships followed by the Premier League, plus an international running at small tour and grand prix. They proved we now have genuine strength in depth in Britain.
British dressage now has plenty to draw on in terms of shows, riders and horses. Roll on Paris 2024.
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 19 August
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