Pammy Hutton: ‘Outrage and scandal trickle down – are we contributing to dressage’s downfall?’


  • Pammy Hutton FBHS on why she will be encourage others over 60 – and 70 – to ride into better physical and mental health, as well as her thoughts on the future of the sport

    Another year older… and another clever clogs asking me why I still ride and compete. Whatever happened to doing it for fun?

    I hate being old. I hate people asking how old I am. I hate not being the old me. Harder still is overcoming the comparisons and criticism.

    Pushing aside the excuses and pain from arthritis, I’ve decided to ignore the naysayers and set about trying to live well and live longer. Illness means my family is relying on me at the moment, so I must keep going. And that means riding – and being fit to ride.

    I’ve dieted as I was too fat to sit well. I can use that word about myself as I won’t be taking it up with my lawyer.

    My new watch monitors my exercise levels and recently advised that I call the emergency services when my pulse rate soared during a lesson. I put that down to excitement.

    I’ve fallen in love with riding all over again. Not quite that first heady rush of 50 years ago, but as I’ve become fitter, I’ve enjoyed it more and surprised myself.

    I’ve trained my horse Ebony to inter I, I’ve stopped puffing, I ride for longer and I’ve added two more horses to my morning exercise. I won a class with 72% and galloped up a hill three times, thanking God I still could.

    This experience has taught me to encourage others over 60 – and 70 – to ride into physical and mental health.

    Preserving our sport

    Outrage and scandal trickle down, via the grassroots, to the non-riding public. It’s agreed there’s an urgent need to preserve our sport and indeed the right to ride at all. Yet are we – the people within dressage – contributing to our sport’s downfall by coming across as elitist, uncaring and cruel?

    Do we highlight the negative too much without showing enough happy horses and their humans?

    Do we take enough care with our horses when phone cameras are ever-present? We have CCTV everywhere at Talland, and I personally have sacked a rider for abuse.

    Racing modified Becher’s Brook, eventing adopted frangible pins, showjumping made safety cups mandatory. Now dressage must make “ease” and “harmony” its keywords – and put a stop to winners with their horses’ heads in their chests.

    Olympic gold is Jessica von Bredow-Werndl’s if her horse is on form. Why? Because she rides with a soft, forward contact and her horse has a long neck, which several revving up behind her simply do not. Conformation helps, of course, and for that reason, Becky Moody’s up-and-coming horse Jagerbomb should be considered.

    Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with TSF Dalera BB at the FEI Dressage World Cup Final

    Social media went on and on after London yet among the tirades was some correct analysis. The tide is turning – judges must reassess and the FEI must take note. The general public, who know less than those at the top, will influence our sport’s future.

    It’s perhaps harsh to compare objective showjumping, where a pole down is clear-cut, with subjective dressage. But the former has done a good job
    to repopularise, something we need to emulate.

    So, what can we do? Firstly, social media is here to stay so let’s use it positively. Secondly, we must appear less elitist by making riders accessible and inviting the public to stroke the horses.

    Here at Talland, we open up to locals to eat cake while watching the horses. And to be honest, the Horse and Country TV shows we host help keep our riding school open. The LeMieux All Star Academy and the latest Megan’s Talland Takeover are about characters, fun, laughter, chaos and mistakes – and that brings people in. Presenter Megan Elphick has over 170,000 followers on Instagram and 240,000 on YouTube – equestrianism needs them all.

    Good business sense is required for dressage to thrive. And, as with any business, the smart money goes into effective advertising. Love it or hate it, social media is advertising. Every time we ride a horse in public it’s an advertisement – good or bad – for our sport and the privilege of riding horses.

    ● Do you agree that those involved in dressage need to do more? Write to us at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, for the chance for your letter to appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 1 February

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