Pammy Hutton: ‘Tempers flared, dressage whites turned black and the air blue’ *H&H VIP*

  • Spencer Wilton’s selection with Super Nova II to join the three near certainties of Carl, Charlotte and Fiona in Rio comes as no surprise. It’s a choice that will add to the team’s consistency.

    For future Olympians, the first ever under-25 European Championships (report, 23 June), held at the Kasselmanns’ showground in Germany, came not a year too soon.

    It’s easy for competitors to sink into oblivion after young rider years. So the introduction of what will be an annual fixture shows great initiative from the FEI, encouraging owners, sponsors and parents to continue to back emerging riders with horses and funding.

    The under-25s have their own grand prix test that is supposedly slightly easier than the senior version, albeit riders who perform both disagree.

    It was wet during the championships, but the facilities were excellent. The British team’s sixth place was not good enough, although each of our top three riders needed only 2.5% more to put us in a medal position.

    Double gold medallist Sanneke Rothenberger was unbeatable, but the rider I’ll be watching closely is the Spanish individual bronze medal winner Juan Matute Guimon. He showed talent in bucketloads.

    ‘I needed a hanky’

    From Germany, our lorry headed for Hickstead with a stop to pick up my horse Armagnac for my first grand prix for seven years. OK, so I’m rather older (but not wiser), fatter and less fit, but this was to be for fun…

    Christmas came the day before when my new saddle and bridle arrived. Thank you, Albion. My last set was still usable after 20 years, despite Mr Hester taking the mickey out of its lack of fashion credentials.

    With three days to prepare for my test, a sideline critic (of whom we have many here at Talland) suggested I wasn’t good enough to be seen “out”. Followed by “…and should you be doing that music? It’s horrid”.

    As a trainer, I made a note to self about how sensitive riders are pre-competition. They need to be told it “as it is”, but put into the positive zone. Instead, I needed a hanky. In the end, my grand prix return was put off due to an onslaught of back pain.

    Losing Hickstead CDI is a blow. We’d taken this show for granted; it’s years since I’ve given it any money, and I’m not the only one.

    However, Hickstead Premier League was not good. I’m of an age that believes that if it rains, we continue. I used to hunt, after all. Here, lorries were being pulled in and out, and the ground staff worked tirelessly to maintain the surfaces. But when mine and Stephen Day’s horse Belmondo, who is unshod, fell in his grand prix test, I withdrew the lot and set off home.

    Should it have been cancelled? Would that have saved the ruin of lorries, arenas and reputations? As it was, tempers flared, dressage whites turned black and the air blue.

    I had been admiring Matt Frost and Sara Gallop’s riding at earlier Premier League shows. At Hickstead, they both cemented their results while looking even better.

    And I’m proud of my daughter Pippa’s Wellington win on Belmondo — not only did he cost just £5,000, but no one thought he was any good!

    He has his faults; but like his half-brother, Suzanna Hext’s long-listed Paralympic ride Abira, Belmondo has a great temperament. And that’s my first requirement in a horse.

    A death knell?

    Livestream is “deadstream” more often than not; Somerford Park’s was hopeless, but Wellington’s was good.

    However, when dressage fans can watch so much from their armchairs, does this sound a death knell for shows’ attendance, atmosphere and economic viability?

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 14 July 2016