Pammy Hutton: Should we set a minimum standard? [H&H VIP]

  • It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since Addington’s High Profile Show was cut short due to snow. This time, all arenas, even the outside ones, rode well despite the deluge of rain.

    There was a much-improved atmosphere too, with all personnel cheerful and helpful, especially the secretary. Laura Stubbs is a star.

    Most seemed happy, apart from one international rider whose poor stabling left them wondering about the definition of “high profile”.

    Entries were healthy across the board. With 44 in the prix st georges, each judge had a different winner on day one.

    It’s many a rider’s dream to compete against the best at our top national shows such as this. However, watching this class and others — the bottom ends of which were woeful — made me ponder something.

    Should we think of introducing a qualifying score to get into Premier League shows of 65% at the level at which riders wish to compete? It could even add to the prestige by giving a nod to the status of these fixtures?

    Setting a benchmark such as a qualifying score does seem to have the effect of raising standards; maybe because it gives riders a goal. At preliminary and novice levels now, where you haven’t a hope of qualifying for a final with less than 70%, many riders are even forsaking competing to cram in the necessary training.

    Meanwhile, Addington again proved a useful barometer for the selectors of ponies, juniors and young riders British teams. There was also a senior riders’ meeting.

    The season began with some very promising partnerships on show.

    A dose of the butterflies

    I arrived at Addington feeling neither high nor prolific. Yes, even an old stager can be nervous at the thought of a very public airing. With no sports psychology on hand for me these days, something our top international riders must remember not to take for granted, it was an unpleasant reminder of how an unadulterated dose of the butterflies feels.

    It’s a strange sensation. It’s as if you have become someone else and you fall into that other person’s bad habits, be it over-riding or under-riding. And that was before trying to cope with the horse! So I gave myself a pep talk.

    Then there was the physical aspect to overcome because nerves tend to drain away every last ounce of energy. Some uphill leverage was needed — requiring plenty of inward leverage — yet I still wasn’t sitting as quietly as I’d like in the saddle.

    I flailed around for a solution… there was still time for some gasping-for-breath warm-up without stirrups. Yes, that did the trick at last. The nerves settled and I could get to work.
    In the event, I wasn’t the only competitor of a certain age facing early season challenges. One well-known senior international was spotted wondering how on earth they would fit into their tailcoat.


    OMG! A recent bill from our solicitor gave me a reality check… Each unit was charged at £24 with the explanation that “a unit” equals six minutes of said lawyer’s time.

    The six-minute formula is clever. How often does a 30-minute schooling session turn into 37 or a 45-minute lesson turn into 52 — thus clocking up extra units? At £240 an hour, I’m definitely in the wrong business…

    Ah, well, my late father’s teaching, that a good doctor, a good accountant and a good solicitor are a must, was never truer.

    Prize-money should increase

    So British Dressage (BD) has officially become a charity, having been recognised as such by the Charity Commission.

    “Let’s hope BD bears in mind that charity begins at home — and passes on some benefits”

    Describing the development as “fantastic news”, chief executive Amanda Bond said the new status would create tax benefits and other additional income to plough back into the sport.

    Let’s hope BD bears in mind that wonderful old saying, “charity begins at home” — and passes on some of its new-found cash in prize-money to cover hard-pressed competitors’ entry fees and diesel.

    Pammy’s comment was first published in Horse & Hound magazine on 6 February 2014.