Pammy Hutton: ‘The truth is funding stops when the medals stop’


  • Pammy Hutton on the spirit of competition and words of caution

    “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”

    That was the creed laid down by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Games, in 1896 and applies to all Olympians.

    So when a para rider has qualified for Paris, yet his national Paralympic committee thought not to send him as he isn’t a medal contender, what’s that about? And where is the motivation for him and others to continue competing?

    Not so long ago, representatives of many sports – including some equestrians – ventured forth with chances of making the podium as slim as Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards. Their aspirations gave others hope.

    The truth now is that funding stops when the medals stop. That shunned para rider is just another example of how our sport revolves around money.

    At the winter dressage championships, I gawped at lorries costing more than the horses inside. Even simply to get there, pay entry fees and to stable, I very much doubt one can do a “party” like that for less than £2,000 if lost business or work is included.

    “We can’t be complacent”

    So how can those with limited funds compete on a “normal” horse? It was pleasing to see coloureds, cobs and ponies doing well and a Friesian winning the prix st georges (PSG). And ironically, those “ordinary” equines will now command high prices should they be sold, reflecting investment in time and training.

    However, we can’t be complacent even after such a successful, all-inclusive championships. Locally, entries are down and many are being careful financially.

    I was back at Addington for their recent Premier League with a plan. I aimed to balance technique – the mechanics of riding, which are not my strongest point – with feel – the timely application of technique in an agreeable way for the horse. I fell a bit in love with the judge who said ours was the only partnership that looked as if the rider was enjoying myself. Maybe I got the balance right?

    I had such fun with my mare Honeybrook Extra Special because she is just that – fun. Together we got into the top 10 in two classes. She’s a horse with a huge heart – I ask and she says, “How much?”. I wobble and she catches me.

    She’s probably the only advanced event horse competing at PSG and she was placed in a competitive open intermediate with Tom Rowland a week later.

    Buying a top-moving horse with a tricky disposition can be successful, but buying the temperament first is recommended – especially if, like me, you’re competing at 72! Luckily for me, “Ebony” was gifted to me by her breeder Lyn Phillips – a kind gesture that money can’t buy.

    High-profile eliminations

    And then to the World Cup – where opulence knows no bounds. It was awful for dressage, with some strong contacts and short necks rewarded. The sport must get its house in order before the public does it for us.

    France is set to adopt the same laws as Italy’s recent legislation to prohibit “any method of coercion or compulsion and the use of means or devices that can cause damage to the wellbeing of the animal…” And high-profile Olympic eliminations won’t be out of the question. The bad news is, certain groups will be hoping for that to happen.

    No one else knows our inner stresses. But a moment’s lapse into temper or rudeness kills reputations.

    At Royal Windsor, Emile Faurie’s smile was from ear to ear. We must collectively bring back beautiful, easy, but of course active, harmonious dressage for it to survive. And we have to do it now.

    Finally, if you’re self-conscious, wear clothes that make you feel good. At times I feel self-conscious, but after a visit to Flying Changes, who make bespoke dressage wear, I felt reborn. OK, it’s more expensive – but occasionally we need to invest in ourselves for our horses’ benefit. And nothing’s so true as “buy cheap, buy twice”.

    ● How do you cope with the rising costs of competing? 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 23 May

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