Pammy Hutton: ‘Is dividing the sport of dressage the answer?’


  • Pammy Hutton discusses a potential shake-up to the dressage world with the set up of a new club for dressage enthusiasts

    IT’S been interesting to follow the emergence of Dressage Circle over recent weeks on Facebook. Billed as “a new club for dressage enthusiasts”, it’s offering seven levels of competition and an inaugural annual championship at Onley Grounds in July.

    Dressage Circle Limited’s founding directors are former British Dressage (BD) judges’ director Jo Graham and IT expert Dominic Booth.

    As many wait with baited breath for its website to be unveiled, revealing exactly how they intend to revolutionise dressage competitions, riders from intro level to an ex-international have expressed their enthusiasm about it to me.

    But to replicate the infrastructure that’s taken BD years to develop is no small undertaking. Many people keen to switch allegiance may only be looking at what’s currently on offer from a face-value perspective. Others need to remember that it is BD that has the connection to the FEI, British Equestrian and to the Government.

    Like many of our governing organisations, BD is not perfect and never will be, because to please everyone all of the time is impossible. The question remains, though, will dividing our sport strengthen it or lead it into obscurity? Lately, there has been a feeling among some that BD is more focused on the top end of the sport. My fear is that the bottom of the pyramid may well jump ship.

    “Blood is blood”

    DRESSAGE has seen a few high-profile eliminations over the years under the “blood” rules. Most have been clear-cut decisions taken on the chin by the affected competitors.

    It makes me unhappy, therefore, that the rules regarding blood still vary across the disciplines and that the presence of blood on a horse in competition does not always result in elimination, as is the case in dressage.

    For example, the FEI driving rulebook states: “In minor cases of blood in the mouth, such as where a horse appears to have bitten its tongue or lip, or minor bleeding on limbs, after investigation the athlete may be authorised to continue.”

    But to me, blood is blood, regardless of the discipline.

    Growing older gracefully

    I CELEBRATED my recent “big” birthday by entering two horses for a show. By setting realistic goals, I can grow older gracefully while gliding down the levels. So as grand prix was my last airing, this was an inter II.

    I’ve also made a long-term plan – after all, age is but a number – to keep riding, as I just love the communication, the thrill of improvement and that dose of three horses every morning being so worth all the daily hassle thereafter.

    Being self-critical never fades. Maybe a barbed-wire bra would make me look 16 again, and straighter.

    Maintaining one’s self-worth is also key. I know costs are rising, but I was shocked to discover that my daughter Pippa is now charging more than me for coaching.

    “That’s not on,” I said, to which Pippa pointed out that I was an iPhone 7 to her upgraded iPhone 13. The cheek of it!

    Every day’s journey teaches us something about horses. After a ghastly show or two last year, I began to question the saddle, teeth, back, feet, vet and trainer.

    Well, talk about teaching an old dog new tricks. The saddle-fitter informed me I needed a new saddle, at huge expense, so I asked if I should instead consider fitting the horse to the saddle. After all, it was originally fitted by him.

    So, with careful feeding, we set about replacing the horse’s weight which had dropped slowly and thus gone unnoticed. Three months on, and what a transformation.

    • Do you agree with Pammy? Let us know at hhletters@futurnet.com including your name, plus local town and county and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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