Pammy Hutton: ‘Top riders shouldn’t compete at the lower levels’


  • Pammy Hutton shares her thoughts on top riders competing below medium, the importance of remaining positive during the long winter months and her New Year’s resolution for 2022...

    STARTING each day with a smile is always more difficult at this time of year, although it is possible with practice. It’s cold, dark and the cost of keeping horses has increased. British Dressage membership is going up with entry fees expected to follow suit, and “ouch” is my response to the price of fuel.

    It’s not always easy to see competition days as “fun days out” any more, and while appreciating the difficulty of trying to please all stakeholders, it’s not only the costs that can reduce the fun.

    International riders in novice classes and the perception that only mega horses qualify for championships all adds to the frustration for amateur riders.

    Real amateurs can feel defeated even at silver regionals, where gold riders put up their “under riders”. I reckon that, at our local regionals, I could save the judges the work by sending the “names” straight through. Then it’s a toss-up which nearly-pro gains that last spot.

    I also sympathise with the unfortunate rider who upgrades to the gold sections by way of a lucky qualification in a silver class. This is really hard for the competitor, owner and trainer. And it’s great to watch the plus-80% test from an international rider, but what about all the others trailing below 70%?

    It’s high time that the very top riders returned to competing only at medium and above.

    The way forward?

    YES, it is possible to buy success in dressage. But is it better for a young rider to be given a “made” horse or make their own? The fortunate few who compete on “made” horses undoubtedly gain tremendous experience and, often, the thrill of success. But does it make them a great horseman or woman?

    We have an ex-Europeans horse at Talland and, to be fair, he teaches us all loads – even me. But I tell my students that it’s when they can ride all the school horses to improvement that they’re becoming riders. Perhaps riding a “made” horse while making your own is the ideal way forwards?

    A perilous future

    SOCIAL media: it’s not all bad and is something we as riders, trainers and business owners have to learn to use properly. Handled with care, it can bring about good.

    Last year, in a bid to support struggling riding schools, Tim Downes, Jenny Rudall and I helped to raise £285,000. Donations and encouragement flooded in from this country and abroad, all via Facebook. How else could we have done that?

    Recently, riding schools’ perilous future has been in the news again. It’s all part of a definite downturn emerging for many businesses faced with rising costs.

    If another Covid wave closes pubs and gyms again, the same fate awaits indoor schools. Sadly, none of our efforts have yet managed to change the law that defines them as “public places”, no matter how well ventilated and exposed to the elements they are. I may yet need to make that trip to Downing Street on a horse…

    Many riding schools will not survive another enforced closure. Yet dressage and all of equestrianism needs them long term to keep children and teenagers riding, learning and enthused.

    Staying young

    NOTWITHSTANDING the above, I’m determined to end the year looking on the bright side. With a big birthday looming, I’m staying young by working to produce another horse to prix st georges and have just bought a three-year-old.

    Looking for the good things in life is vital, while not ignoring the not so good. This Christmas, I’ll be trying to help those that could do with a hand, while wearing that well-practised morning smile. This will be a hard winter; the Covid outcome is unknown, yet life goes on.

    As for 2022, my New Year’s resolution is to keep saying the things that are thought but often not spoken.

    •  Should top riders compete at the lower levels? Let us know your thoughts by emailing hhletters@futurenet.com including your name, local town and county for the chance to win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

    This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 16 December

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