Pammy Hutton: What happened to the outside leg and inside rein? [H&H VIP]

  • ‘Use the inside leg to the outside hand.”

    The expression is often quoted as the answer to dressage, it’s repeated to abuse — and I hate it!

    Our old Pony Club manual advised: “use the inside leg for impulsion, the outside leg to control it; the inside rein for bend, direction and flexion, and the outside rein to control impulsion the inside leg creates”.

    So what has happened to the outside leg and inside rein?

    I remember being on a four-day World Class training programme. Klaus Balkenhol was teaching and we were all on grand prix horses.

    Fabulous — piaffe, passage, one-time changes. But no, we never moved off the centre line for almost the entire course. Interestingly, the US team, whom Klaus went on to train, got straight nines for their centre lines at the next Olympics.

    It’s always a nerve-wracking journey, that centre line. When I’m about to hear “not straight, five”, I imagine aiming an arrow from a bow straight at the judge. If a wobble starts, I ride forward. I know I should smile too, but one can’t remember everything.

    Done well, this movement boosts overall impression because it begins and ends a test. Yet, to ride a turn on to the centre line, one needs the outside leg supporting the quarters.

    If you’re still with me dear reader…all one has to remember is that one has two legs and two rein aids.

    Letting it all out

    If you want to win, you must let it all out. So say researchers at the University of Portsmouth, who have found that hiding your feelings results in poor sporting performances.

    “Sports people frequently have to control their emotions in the run-up to and during competition,” says emotion regulation expert Dr Chris Wagstaff, “but this appears to significantly reduce the level at which they perform”.

    Suppressing thoughts and feelings while operating in a “result-driven goldfish bowl” can lead to exhaustion and diminished thought processes.

    Activities likely to place unwanted emotional burdens on sports people include media interviews and meeting fans while trying to hide feelings of anxiety, anger or disgust.

    Part of the study involved asking 20 sports people to watch a video of a woman being sick then eating her own vomit. The aim was to provoke strong feelings of disgust which some were asked to suppress while others were encouraged to “let rip”. A third group did not watch the video.

    Participants then cycled 10km as fast they could. Those who had regulated their emotions were slower at cycling, generated less power and thought they were working harder than they actually were, compared with those who openly expressed their disgust at the video.

    The “let it out” group performed equally with those who had not watched the video, proving that bottling it up can adversely affect performance.

    It’s interesting stuff at a time when riders are increasingly under scrutiny for their performance in front of a camera as much as in the arena. And I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling better about preferring to keep to myself and occasionally being downright unpleasant to be around when I’m about to compete.

    Standards rising in Asia

    The Asian Games in South Korea clashed with our national championships. But, I was there in spirit rooting for Talland-based Taiwanese rider Vivian Chang, who made history for her country as part of the bronze medal-winning team — along with another Talland-trained rider, Li Yu Kuo.

    It was good to note how many more countries now take part in these Games, how the standard has risen — and how it needs to rise more.

    There was an incident over the tension of nosebands. And, indeed, when it takes more than one person to do up a noseband or a ratchet is required, this is cruelty of the first order.

    It’s been years since it was requested that a finger test or measurement tube be used to assess noseband tightness.

    So come on FEI, let’s have a rule on this and get it right ASAP.

    And finally

    Ok, some homework. Take a look at The Funny Horse Scout on the internet and you’ll never again doubt the power of vocal and visual communication to get a horse to do anything.

    Read more of Pammy’s columns