Pammy Hutton: ‘Aim for a smile rather than a 10’ *H&H Plus*

  • Pammy Hutton on setting achievable targets, and riding schools’ plight

    We’ve had no choice but to stay positive this winter while training at home. To all those who have stuck with it outdoors in force 10 gales and sub-zero temperatures, I salute you!

    My goals may not be as high as they once were, and many riders are in the same boat. But achieving daily goals with an end goal in sight – perhaps even a “live” competition or two – is what has kept us all going.

    My latest target is 200 metres in my best sitting trot with no wobbles or flops; no changes or resistance; horse and rider in balance, rhythm and outline to produce one picture… although I find that 20 metres in, my inner core (wherever that is) screeches with inability.

    As our sport waits for resumption, maintaining the enthusiasm of all concerned is key. Like never before, British Dressage needs its ordinary members at the strong base of the pyramid supporting the top.

    Indeed, enforced training

    at home sometimes requires a new mindset. Often, my horses go so much better when I aim for a really nice ride and a smile rather than a 10. Now, that tells me something.

    “Keep riding schools afloat”

    How utterly ghastly this third lockdown has been for so many in the equine industry. It’s gone way beyond having a moan about a lack of competitions.

    We need physical and mental exercise and a belly laugh or 10! My physical exercise is achieved on a horse; the mental while working out how to maintain the Talland business. The belly laughs come courtesy of the fabulous team around me; it helps to laugh at oneself, too.

    Tim Downes of Ingestre and I have led a campaign to help keep riding schools afloat – for the future welfare of horses and for us humans’ mental and physical health. Riding schools are the backbone of the equine industry, yet currently all we can do is pray and borrow.

    My father always said: “Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves.” So, it’s been hind shoes off, careful mucking out, less hard feed.

    We must safeguard our equine friends in this country, of which there are around 850,000. Too many are quietly being put down – or worse, neglected.

    As for the teaching side, I don’t mind rules, but a lack of common sense drives me nuts. We still hope to get the Government to see sense over allowing one-to-one lessons in a 20x60m arena; it’s allowed in Scotland, but not in England. How daft!

    Of course I understand that Covid is dangerous and very contagious, but many yards have made their businesses safer than any chemist’s shop.

    As riding schools, we can “loan” horses. We can bring in a physio and the client can travel for horse welfare. Anyone can “move livery yards”.

    We can teach Riding for the Disabled Association and para riders, although we’ve said “no” to that as close contact is needed. Surely it has to be safer to teach able-bodied riders?

    As for training by Zoom, despite its “virtual” pitfalls, it’s keeping some trainers afloat.

    More worryingly in this brave new digital world is the suggestion that some riders might be variously medicating their horses in the morning, then doing an online test (and winning) in the afternoon. How sad if cheating or abuse becomes a side-effect of competitions that have no welfare checks, stewards or dope tests.

    “Rules are rules”

    Watching Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD win last month’s World Cup qualifier grand prix in Salzburg, Austria, was to witness something not in the FEI rulebook – extended trot with some soft, rising trot steps.

    The experts marvelled, and it was done expertly. But the rule clearly states “sitting trot”, so should the bell have been rung? And would it have been rung for a lesser-known mortal?

    It’s not that I disagree with what was done – only pointing out that rules are rules. Or are they?

    Ref: 18 February 2021

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