Pammy Hutton: Accept, but don’t reward, weaknesses *H&H VIP*


  • Seeing our top riders in the grand prix was a highlight at last month’s Keysoe CDI.

    Carl joked he’d had super-groom Alan Davies ready to distract the judges so they missed Nip Tuck’s extended trot — typically a weaker movement for him. It reminded me to accept a horse’s weak link and build on the eights, although I would have given some of Nip Tuck’s piaffe and passage a nine or even a 10.

    I watched a lot at Keysoe, and got most of the results right — but not quite all. Lateral walks were still receiving astonishingly high marks. One of the disadvantages of losing the collective marks, including those for paces, is that the walk would be worth only about 3% of the marks. So does it matter if your horse can’t walk?

    In trot, some young horses move the hind leg a fraction before the front. This is often thought to help piaffe and passage later, while a four-time beat is allowed in canter pirouettes. So I’m left wondering if my next horse actually needs to walk, trot or canter in the correct rhythm — or whether this should remain the first scale of training.

    I saw some up-and-coming riders not always sitting in balance, upright or straight. A rider’s core must be flexible and elastic; absorbing and strong. Yet, in their keenness to “sit up”, stiffness is sometimes on show.

    At Keysoe, I also saw that dressage can still be done on a shoestring. My well-placed junior rider arrived in a trailer, lacks the bling of many, and could do with some new boots. But I was proud of her riding. Likewise, I need new clothes with a shinier hat — a case of none of the gear but some idea?

    Sudden changes

    I commend the ethics-based decision of one rider, who has previously ridden at grand prix, not to compete at the BD (British Dressage) winter championships after he was informed by British Dressage the day before the regionals that he would have to ride in silver.

    He qualified before the new “forever gold” rule was brought in (which prevents grand prix riders from competing below gold), but it seems that qualification under the old rules stands for this championship. What a good job this rule has now been implemented, but how very disappointing for all those concerned, especially the owner. I think BD has really made a mistake on this occasion.

    In another situation, a rider who competed internationally years ago qualified for the championships at prelim. But with his competition records lost, he was told by BD that he is a bronze rider.

    Never give up

    Another birthday has been and gone for me. I’ve acquired a naughty terrier and a saint of an unbroken four-year-old — and I can’t wait to get out of bed to ride every morning I’m at home.

    Yes, there are knock-backs. At a recent international show an older competitor was told a younger trotter-upper might do a better job of presenting their horse. If that was said to me…

    Never a day goes by without learning. I push myself harder with an anecdote of Jonty Evans ringing in my ears: Jonty’s headmaster once repeated to the school “never, never, never…” in increasingly louder tones followed by a quiet “give up”. We in turn have been inspired by Jonty here at Talland.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 11 April 2019