Pammy Hutton: ‘We must identify true raw talent’ *H&H Plus*


  • Pammy Hutton on making goals for 2021 that are not dependent on shows

    Last Christmas, we were all blissfully unaware of coronavirus, how it would change the world and all our personal worlds. This year, lives and livelihoods have been lost, hospitals and hardship are in every headline, while separation from friends and family has become the sad new normal.

    It must be a miserable time for anyone who’s been forced to sell their horses – mine are what make me crawl out of bed every morning, including at Christmas. Tea and pills consumed, the pull of my horses and pupils gives me the reason to leg it into the day.

    Christmas does give one a little planning time. Even when competitions are curtailed, goals are needed, starting with that half-hour spent grooming your horse every day. For me, it’s been three horses and nine lessons five days a week; I’m not letting Covid stop me.

    However, with competitive activity during the first quarter of 2021 remaining uncertain, it’s important not to tempt disappointment by focusing goals entirely on the glitz and glamour of shows. More attainable resolutions will be self-improvement of ourselves and horses; maintaining fitness and correctness with attention to detail. My not-so-good transitions are top of my list.

    And in the unrelenting quest for our careers and competition success with horses, please let’s remember to make time to care for those who care for us. The mug of tea, the two-minute chat, the word of thanks.

    Earlier this month we set our students the task of compiling three lists of 2021 goals under the following headings: self-education and qualifications; competitions; personal. It’s made me think about my goals in these areas: to learn how to sound and act more politically correct in today’s modern age; to achieve 70% on any horse, at any level; to have more relaxing Sundays – and a perfect turkey on Christmas Day.

    We need an X Factor

    What happened to the Talent Spotting championship, the competition that helped many a potential top rider to get noticed? I want to restart it, call it The X Factor and make it open to 16 to 18-year-olds. And when I say “open”, I mean it – let’s focus on identifying raw talent in young people who may not have the sort of experience or qualifications that other apprenticeship schemes require.

    The winners would be proper horse people who show the ability to ride and train – or at least can demonstrate that they have the instincts to do so. The top three prizes would be free scholarship places to three top yards.

    British Dressage (BD) and British Equestrian provide lots of support with good mentoring and learning programmes. But inevitably these initiatives are more accessible to those who are already “in”.

    In 2021, a year when diversity and equal opportunity will remain up the agenda, we must create more opportunities for the young from all backgrounds. Equally important is the old freely imparting wisdom to the young, and the young being prepared to listen and learn.

    So, come on, are there any sponsors out there for The X Factor? Talland is happy to host the finals for free!

    Welfare to the fore

    At last, there is progress being made to ban the cruel practice of soring those poor Tennessee walking horses in the USA. Congratulations to everyone campaigning to achieve this.

    Since Anna Sewell wrote about the atrocities of the bearing rein in Black Beauty, drawing attention to such abuses has become half the battle. So much went on unknown before social media, which has certainly shone a light on rollkur, overtight nosebands and rule-breaking in endurance riding, with action taken in horses’ favour.

    So what’s next? There’s definitely increased interest in welfare issues surrounding horses kept alone, the concern being that this is inhumane for an inherent herd animal. And then there are equine whiskers – or rather the new FEI ban on trimming them. It is a correct move, although the showing girl in me is finding this one harder.

    On that note, surely my husband does not need his whiskers? Or will Brian be sporting designer stubble in 2021? Ah well, one must move with the times.

    Hopefully, no one has dared to trim Santa’s reindeers’ whiskers… On which note, I wish you and your two- and four-legged friends a happy Christmas and much improved, healthy New Year.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 24 December 2020

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