Pammy Hutton: Challenging the armchair critics *H&H VIP*

  • It’s a little after Rio, but I must add my accolades for our team’s performance. Team silver was predicted. But the Germans were not as far ahead as was feared. The gold medallists were lucky our team had mistakes — not way-of-going errors.

    Listening to Peter Storr commentating on TV, I felt frustration with some of the judging. He’d say “rhythm not regular”, but it still received an eight. Or “tension showing”, and another eight. Yes, I’m prejudiced. But did our quartet really deserve to get pipped for gold? Did the winning team show less harmony overall than our beaten riders?

    Dressage bashers

    During Rio, the classical riding versus Olympic dressage discussions revved up online. I address them here only because our classically trained competition riders are too busy training and competing to respond to the insults thrown at them.

    I wonder about the credentials of many a basher. Can they ride beyond a hack to the field? And if they once rode to a reasonable standard, how  long ago was it?

    It’s fine to have a developed eye but not to ride. But beware criticising the moment captured in a photograph. I’ve taken hundreds of photos of our horses playing in the fields — and many show them apparently over-bent, upset looking and even stressed (for example if guarding a friend). And these are loose horses.

    I challenge any “classical” critic to produce something as beautiful as Charlotte and Valegro. And yet they still knock…

    Then, just as I was exhausted fighting  competitive dressage’s corner, along came a picture of Carl Hester training in Rio. Nip Tuck is in a snaffle, quarters lowered, horse and rider totally in balance, horse relaxed from head to toe. I posted this masterpiece online to shut them all up. Carl is an equitation genius. Words are simply not enough to thank this man for all he has given to British dressage, his huge influence and brilliant training.

    But I cringed at some not-great moments that add fuel to the fire of the armchair critics. The sight of Adelinde Cornelissen with Parzival was not good; tongue lolling looks awful for our sport.

    Yet what drives me crazy is how all of competitive dressage is lumped together by the snipers. Our British team have totally nailed gorgeous, correct, classical dressage. So credit where it’s due, please.

    True greatness

    Thank you John Major, for making lottery funding possible. It’s made all the difference to our success. And of course, thanks too to the support teams, from selectors to grooms, and especially owners.

    But money isn’t everything. Much as we all love the latest expensive gear, I watched with wonder Nick Skelton’s winning — and dare I say classical — round in his old saddle. Now that was true greatness.

    Are the nationals fair?

    Well done British Dressage (BD) for reviewing the bronze, silver and gold categories and making changes. With the regionals done and dusted, it’s to the national championships that we now look (15–18 September).

    Most tennis players don’t expect to be on a court next to Andy Murray. So perhaps the time has come for a major championship for seniors, another for young riders, juniors, ponies and young horses earlier in the year, and a revamp of all other championships.

    Please don’t let it rain again this year, or the online discussions regarding timing will be the only thing about it that’s hot!

    Finally, to dispel rumours that I do nothing but browse the Internet, I’m jumping out of bed each morning keen to improve my grand prix work. At least this earns me a right to decide what might be classical, or less so.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 8 September 2016