Pammy Hutton: ‘If social media was shut down, life’s problems wouldn’t disappear’


  • Fellow of the British Horse Society, Pammy Hutton, reflects on social licence, social media and the importance of appreciating the smaller things

    THE recent review of whip use in racing and the blood rule eliminations in Aachen’s dressage competitions remind us how vulnerable our social licence to operate horse sport has become.

    As Showing Council chair Jane Nixon said in Horse & Hound: “An increasing proportion of Western media believe the horse shouldn’t be ridden at all, on ethical, physical and mental grounds. This challenge isn’t new, but its scope and rate of change have increased massively.”

    Historically, newspapers were the principal source of news. And they at least, unlike social media, were edited. Word-of-mouth gossip, whispered behind a hand, was how negative information was usually spread. Village shops and show centre cafes knew it all!

    Now, it’s all out there; instant and uncensored. Yes, social media is the giant here to stay and we must learn to handle it. Every written word, every picture, must be posted with care. Meanwhile, everyone has a right to freedom of speech and fair comment. For example, I feel justified in saying that perhaps those who believe we should not be riding horses ought to consider the major cull that would ensue if we stopped.

    Social media can be cripplingly destructive. But if we opt out, we miss out. One can use it to raise money for charities and riding schools, as I did during Covid, or expose abuse, promote business, share fun and giggles, find childhood friends and catch up with people abroad.

    The screen acts as an equaliser of competence, knowledge and experience. Therefore, to some, everybody’s opinion is valid and in some cases taken as gospel, while others feel able to challenge individuals of the highest standing.

    While raising money for good causes or highlighting welfare issues is great, that same touch of a button can breed so much negativity and hurt. Mean remarks destroy the faint-hearted and can have far-reaching effects. I’m still recovering from being asked why I haven’t retired from competitions.

    But if social media was shut down tomorrow, the problems of life wouldn’t vanish overnight. So we must learn to make it work for us positively, particularly when it comes to promoting and protecting horse sports.

    Wall-to-wall action at Hartpury

    HARTPURY Festival of Dressage had wall-to-wall action and was fun, made more so for me because – having taken the weight issues to heart – I rode there three-quarters of a stone lighter than earlier in the year.

    When you might be – and I’m happy to be corrected – the oldest competitor at Hartpury, you celebrate every day you can make your parents’ memories proud.

    Likewise you appreciate it when the judge from overseas gives you almost 70%, because you know how hard it is to ride straight, to halt square, to piaffe without covering a mile – and to smile not snap.

    Simply, to have that day out in an arena with my horse made me glad I push myself 110%. OK, so I let the side down by missing my lines of changes. Maybe a certain wedding and forthcoming mother-of the-bride duties took my attention…

    A difficult winter ahead

    OVERALL, entries are down across the country as the costs of competing hit us from all directions. How many of the cancelled events and shows will re-emerge, and how many financially sidelined riders will discover that there’s more to life than competing and fail to return?

    Many horse owners are seeking ways to save ahead of what could become a difficult winter. My grandmother taught all 25 of her horses to stale in a bucket to a whistle; it saved straw. Cost-cutting will be critical for many, but horse welfare must remain a priority.

    I’ve long extolled the virtues of home-cooking over expensive ready-meals. Nowadays, amid so many price hikes, nettle soup suddenly seems like an attractive addition to the menu.

    ● What are your cost-cutting tips? Tell us at hhletters@futurenet.com

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 28 July

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