Pammy Hutton: Should we declare ourselves extinct? [H&H VIP]

  • Lectures on creative learning for kids and managerial software systems, demos by top trainers and a glittering black tie evening, are all on the agenda for a three-day riding schools convention in Germany.

    Here in the UK, neither the image nor the reality of running a riding school is glamorous. As my family well knows, it takes a superhuman effort.

    This comment has previously bemoaned the lack of support or relief for riding schools.

    With the heavy burden of business rates, insurance and red tape, maybe we must accept that no silver bullet is heading our way.

    So should riding schools lie down and declare ourselves extinct? Or tweak ourselves and survive?

    There is a groundswell of effort to get “more bums in saddles”. “Dragon” Deborah Meaden and cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew are ambassadors for HOOF, the BEF’s participation programme.

    Then there’s Sport England’s “This Girl Can” programme, telling women that it’s good to work up a sweat playing sport, including going riding. While here at Talland we’ve been encouraging lapsed riders via the “Take Back the Reins” campaign.

    It’s all great stuff and will I’m sure inspire more people to learn to ride. But where will their new-found aspiration be dashed or enhanced? At a riding school of course… we need to be ready for the modern customer.

    There’s been no greater advocate of the British Horse Society (BHS) exams and instructors’ qualification system than this Fellow of that august society. It is the backbone of all that is horsey in Britain, but do aspects of its examinations system need reviewing?

    I’ve just achieved my UKCC Level 3. While working towards this coaching certificate, I’ve realised that, embraced carefully, this is the way forward.

    British Showjumping leads the UKCC field, followed by British Dressage, and then the BHS.

    My personal involvement has highlighted many things — most importantly, the difference between traditional instructing/teaching and coaching.

    That applies at all levels, from having the passion, patience and skills to give novices a safe, sound foundation, or equipping a competitive rider with the tools to perform independently.

    Do we also have something to learn about image and self-belief from the Germans’ approach to riding schools?

    I hope that every new rider keen to prove “she can” is able to find a good British riding school near her…

    Pearls of wisdom

    While reading about Danish grand prix rider Lars Petersen’s presentation to the Global Dressage Forum (feature, 15 January), two sentences struck me.

    “Straightness: the zenith of dressage” was the first. Why is this quality not higher up the scales of training? How can rhythm or contact can be perfect without straightness?

    Many trainers successfully interpret “the scales” and explain the words that have become our mantra. But those who quote them as “the Bible” should remember that there are several versions of the same gospel…

    “Ignore the bad, praise the good” was Lars’ second golden phrase. So often we focus too hard on how this, that or the other is bad.

    Praise the good and it gets even better; keep praising, and the not-too-good improves too. Riders need their glass to be half full, not half empty!

    Easy engagement

    Not so long ago, we dressage fans would have been delighted with even the briefest bit on television. And now we’re debating the details of the commentary that accompanies it.

    Who’d have thought it…

    As family and friends enjoyed some TV coverage recently, a cheer went up every time an equine tail hit the floor. Suddenly I’d unlocked the secret to engagement, or the perception of it at least: grow my horses’ tails!

    Another media advancement was last month’s live stream from Addington’s High Profile show.

    But as I swore at my computer, there was nothing very “live” about what I could receive.

    However, I was told by many that this innovation was fabulous, and almost as if one was there.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 12 February 2015