Pammy Hutton: New tests and old hands [H&H VIP]

  • Dressage riders and eventers alike have been hard at work on this season’s tests, some of which are new, or new to them.

    I’m relieved that the Badminton test is without the endless serpentine.

    The new 3-star test gives riders time to choose the moment for the flying change between the quarter line and three-quarter line. By reducing the pressure of demanding the movement on the centre line, hopefully we’ll see fewer stressed flying changes.

    The new young rider B test is interesting. Riders need to be fully awake to remember that one.

    The para IA test raises the question of why judges are accepting still, firm outlines in medium walk. Nowhere is collected walk required and FEI article 403 states: “The athlete maintains a light, soft and steady contact with the mouth, allowing natural movement of the head and neck.” Natural movement is not seen nearly enough.

    Open for ideas

    When working at home at Talland, we always have our indoor school doors open — both literally and figuratively. On a recent rain-soaked afternoon, I was reminded how valuable it is when professionals can work together. In the school were 5 members of our family, all with various British Horse Society [BHS] qualifications from Stage 2 to fellowship. OK, Abi Lyle and my son Charlie are not quite married, but 5 April is very close.

    Jeremy Michaels FBHS was running a BUCS [British Universities and Colleges Sports] match, then there was Jeremy Spring, Irish eventing team silver medallist, plus Irish eventer Gerry Sinnott, who was placed 6th at the Montreal Olympics and now quietly works for us.

    Two other BHSIs were there, plus some British Dressage young professional’s award finalists.

    Yes, it’s quite a big school, but it was the discussion in all directions — a pooling of ideas and methods — that was so inspiring.

    The joy of phonelessness

    Arriving in Italy for a 3-day training stint, my phone suddenly became disconnected. At first I felt lost, no, desolate… and my fingers began to twitch with texting withdrawal symptoms. Finally, I gave up and worked — non-stop.

    Halfway through the first day, relief and a sense of freedom set in. No phone to check, no emails, messages or Facebook. And I don’t use my phone nearly as much as many.

    Too many phones are attached to riders’ ears and fingers. Then, in the evening, the computer takes over. No wonder spoken communication is a dying art, and thank goodness horses don’t have on-board digital devices.

    However, technology does appear to be the driving force behind a renaissance in equestrian products. I hear last month’s British Equestrian Trade Association [BETA] trade fair was buzzing, with the highest number of exhibitors since 2008 and record entries in its innovation awards.

    I like the sound of the award-winning, battery operated jacket that gently heats at the touch of a button. Marketed by Mobile Warming, it definitely beats global warming.

    Lessons from Sochi

    With my phoneless free time, I took to watching the Winter Olympics, particularly ice skating. Wow, 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya is outstanding.

    Skating’s scoring system appears to be designed to confuse spectators. I was watching with a 4-star judge and we agreed that it won’t be long before our own freestyles follow suit, with 9 judges and the top and bottom scores discarded.

    More worryingly, the skating judges seemed to be responsible for hitting their own computer buttons. Now that could be interesting…

    In the snowboarding slopestyle, the genuine camaraderie between competitors is a lesson dressage could learn. Or is it just me who ungenerously watches an Olympics praying for a bad piaffe, a runout or a pole down from a rival team?

    Flooding victims

    My heart goes out to all who are flooded. We’re on a hill, yet have pools of water 100m square on our land — and we’re the lucky ones. We were without power for 24hr last month, but that’s nothing compared with what some are going through.

    Pammy’s column was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 March, 2014)