Laura Tomlinson: Don’t sacrifice correctness for spectacle *H&H Plus*


  • The start of the year has been pretty rough for me — having mocked my husband for having “man flu”, karma then arrived to bite me. My kids have all had temperatures and snotty noses, too, and the start of term could not have been more welcome as the not-so-glamorous juggling act that is my life continues.

    I’ve been unable to work out while I’ve been ill, and sadly I also missed the first opportunity for any squad riders to go into the heat chamber at the sports centre in Bisham Abbey. This is where riders are being tested while getting a taste for what the heat and humidity of Tokyo might feel like at the Olympics.

    Before writing my H&H columns, I usually check what’s been going on recently, just to make sure that I haven’t missed something huge that’s been happening while I’ve been busy scurrying on my hamster wheel of parenting, training, teaching when I can fit it in — and then parenting again.

    One piece of news I have learnt is that Laura Graves has retired her top international grand prix horse, Verdades. This will be a great loss, as Laura and Verdades have been stalwarts of the US team for many years now.

    Retiring a horse is always a hard decision to make, but credit to them for doing it before Verdades started to lose form. I think it’s always great for a horse to finish their career at peak performance rather than waiting for their age to show. This seems obvious, but often the pressure of bringing a horse out for one more run for the team is hard not to succumb to.

    At the end of the day, a horse who has produced as many great team and individual performances as Verdades doesn’t owe anyone anything, and although Laura will miss competing him like crazy, full credit to her for retiring him in style.

    ‘Set the right example’

    I agree with Pammy Hutton, in her recent comment, that keeping issues concerning the welfare of the horse on the agenda through coaching and education is important. However, I would also like to add that it’s important to look to the pinnacle of our sport to set the right example.

    If horses that move extravagantly, but are consistently tense over the back and held very tightly by fixed hands, are rewarded with higher marks than horses with correct neck length and relaxed backs and frames, it’s hard to see how the welfare of the horse can win through.

    We need to look to the judges at top level to stay true to the actual guidelines of how horses should move and perform the exercises in the tests. Too often correctness is lost for the sake of spectacle and it sends mixed messages to other riders about what they should be aiming to achieve with their horses.

    While we may debate the intricacies of our sport, we should all take a moment to think of the people and wildlife affected by the catastrophic fires in Australia. Anyone who has not done so already, I urge you to lend your support in any way you can.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 23 January 2020