Pammy Hutton: How can a horse be 2nd, 5th and 17th? [H&H VIP]

  • The British Dressage Winter Championships had all those little touches that make for a good show.

    A new idea was four seats reserved for connections of the horse and rider currently in the arena. One could pop in to see them perform before making a sharp exit. What a fabulously kind thought for we parents who are so nervous we can’t decide whether or not to watch until the last minute.

    The times ran smoothly too. I’d been amused to see them given out at our son Charlie and Abi’s wedding the previous Saturday by the brilliant show organiser Caroline Griffith. The newly married couple opted for a “mini-moon”, so as to be ready for the championships. It was hard to believe that the champagne was flowing again a week to the day later to celebrate a top three placing for the new partnership of Charlie with Charlotte Dunkerton’s Douglas IV.

    Two combinations well on their way towards the senior team have to be Spencer Wilton (Super Nova, pictured) and Fiona Bigwood with Atterupgaards Orthilia. And with Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro unstoppable, following their utterly sensational World Cup win [report, 24 April], how good is that for British dressage?

    I make no apologies for bringing up the ongoing disparity in some judges’ marks. It’s an old chestnut, but one that needs monitoring at all levels of our subjectively assessed sport.Yes, judges are hard-working, have a huge burden of responsibility… But how can a horse be placed 2nd, 5th and 17th at the winters? And during a regional championship, how can a medium canter be awarded an 8, an 8 and a 4? That can’t be right.

    Turning up the Italian heat

    Having clocked up more air miles than a commercial pilot lately, staying fit for my next Premier League show is hard. If only I could do riding friendly exercises as I travel. Any suggestions — not involving airborne mechanical horses — gratefully received!
    Italy is my favourite destination; it’s weird to think the flight time is less than driving to Scotland. So I ought to be relishing the prospect of the junior and young rider European Championships in Arezzo in July.

    In fact, the temperature there in mid-summer can soar to over 40°C. With the health and safety of horses and riders in mind, the FEI should consider a move, or careful scheduling of classes.

    Be careful, Dressage Ireland

    The standard of dressage in Ireland is rising apace, albeit with very little coverage in the equestrian media. Superstars in the making could be spotted at last September’s Irish national championships.

    There are serious international contenders among Dressage Ireland’s ranks in the republic, while promising combinations from Northern Ireland could one day be considered for British teams.

    Ireland also hosts the pony Europeans, along with eventing and showjumping, at Millstreet this summer, helping raise our sport’s profile further.

    Although most Dressage Ireland tests are excellent, a new elementary struck me as needing more thought. Should a horse at this level canter down a centre line? Surely this can cramp the canter…

    And shoulder-in appears in one test. What’s wrong with leg-yielding, as used by other nations? Shoulder-in is also undesirable in a test that allows rising trot throughout; that movement shouldn’t be ridden while rising. Or at least it never has been!

    Careful, Irish dressage. To be taken seriously, all aspects have to be handled with care.

    Passports must work harder

    As we keep hearing about equine overpopulation and associated welfare issues, the hue and cry goes on about putting horses down.

    When our horses become too old to enjoy work or life, we have them put to sleep. And as for eating horse meat, this I have done. And it really wasn’t too shocking.

    More strict inclusion of drugs on passports — and more rigorous equine passport controls — would go a long way towards improving the situation. Then horses could safely be sold for meat and treated with respect as something of value.

    I’d also like to see a page on passports to list operations. That would be really helpful to buyers of riding or competition horses.

    It’s currently cheaper to buy in Holland than the UK. Is this due to the 2012 Olympic “bounce”? Or are our British sellers being too greedy?

    Pammy’s column was first published in Horse & Hound (1 May, 2014)