Pammy Hutton: Big sponsorship and passé top hats [H&H VIP]

  • With dressage becoming so popular, sponsorship is happening. And none have benefited more than the deserving duo of Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin.

    On hearing of Carl’s latest saddle sponsorship deal — said by the company involved [PDS by Fieldhouse — see image, above] to be “probably the largest ever offered in the equestrian market” — one can but feel a little jealous.

    However, on pausing for thought, has anyone done more for British dressage than Carl?

    What he gives back to our sport is priceless. His teachings, results and philosophy stretch far and wide. No one is funnier and his kindness often goes unmarked.

    I well remember the day I was summoned to bring our son Charlie over to Carl’s at 9am one Sunday. Now, no one moves me on a show-free Sunday, but feeling rather ordered to be there and with no option but to obey, off we went.

    On arriving at Carl’s, I was met with: “Your son is dressed dreadfully; they must be your father’s cast-offs. Take these…”

    “These” were several thousand pounds worth of clothes fit for a king.

    Disparities in entries

    With 55 in the prix st georges and 28 in the grand prix, Keysoe Premier League was full to bursting.

    Even though it clashed with Badminton, Addington Premier League was equally busy. Meanwhile, average local shows, even those with qualifiers, are short of entries.

    With figures like these, double and more than those of three years ago, British Dressage [BD] must surely consider qualification for Premier Leagues — three results of plus-65%, perhaps?
    To be honest, I was bricking it to be good enough for Keysoe. Premier should be just that.

    Top hats are passé

    My inner turmoil over topper versus safety hat ended at Keysoe.

    I was a first aider and one of the first on the scene following Fiona Bigwood’s fall, which was a real leveller. She was unconscious, with dirt on the side of her helmet clearly verifying a big impact. If she’d worn a top hat, the outcome would have been unthinkable.

    With Charlotte Dujardin elegantly leading the charge, the top hat’s days are surely numbered — in all disciplines. No more hue and cry, even from the showing contingent. The bullet has to be bitten.

    In any case, the new hats are smart, fashionable and glamorous.

    Riding school to riches

    An ex-riding school horse competing at Badminton — Lucinda Fredericks’ Flying Finish was found in a Stuttgart establishment — reminded me how much British riding schools still need all the help they can get.

    So what a good idea is the Young Equestrians Club, which aims to keep teenagers interested in riding by offering social and training hubs centred on riding schools.

    Maintaining 13- to 18-year-olds within the equestrian fold is crucial to riding schools’ prosperity, our sport’s development and, indeed, the wider equestrian industry’s future health. Without riding schools, where are the “ordinary” children to ride?

    An emergency service?

    There are two sides to the RSPCA’s story. Apart from the political one, people do rather expect it to be the fourth emergency service, yet with no Government support or funding.
    I got too close for comfort to that side of the RSPCA, the one that really works, during a recent trip north. One was a pony found in a garden, the other living with a herd. Never have I seen horses in such a state — and I have seen some states in my time — but I’m assured they will live.

    I was helping with a unique collaboration between the RSPCA and the British Horse Society [BHS]. The former’s call centres transfer information about urgent equine welfare issues to volunteer BHS officers to ensure a prompt and effective result.

    Observing the love and care on offer melted my heart, and I gladly gave half the takings from a lecture-demo to the cause.

    The same northern expedition took me to Northumberland. Having travelled many miles between far-flung show venues, I was horrified to learn that BD had turned down the fourth and final one for affiliation.

    This centre has two 60x25m arenas — one is even bigger than that. It’s in an area crying out for more good dressage shows, so please BD, do go and look.