Pammy Hutton: If only I’d been a pushy parent [H&H VIP]

  • No wonder so many former young riders end up in no-man’s land. The gap between the sheltered under-21s environment and senior grand prix international is huge and hard to cross.

    Viewing days to spot combinations who would flourish with a little direction and support might work. Perhaps there could be BORDS squads; the O standing for “older” in an extended version of BYRDS [British Young Riders Dressage Scheme] to help those beyond 25.

    It is rumoured that the FEI might raise the age limit for European young riders to 25. I hope it does; it would help bridge the gap internationally.

    Sadly there’s no training for pony, junior or young rider parents. After nine years, I’m officially no longer one of them, so finally feel able to comment on an ongoing worry.

    Earlier this year, [my daughter] Pippa Hutton’s European squad ride Duela was lame at an international show. The horse was removed from the shortlist without a visit from the team vet or reference from her home vet.

    Pippa was left with Belmondo, who was lame at the last training day. Then Duela came sound in time to represent Team GBR. I must have mumbled her return to full health too quietly because why no vet’s visit (I learnt later that the budget doesn’t stretch to this) or request for a vet’s report?

    If only I’d been more of a pushy parent. If only I hadn’t been so busy and running on low batteries. If only I’d battled a bit harder, shouted a bit louder.

    Yes, it would have been hard for the selectors to tell the now called-up reserve that the first choice was being reconsidered. But with Duela scoring her usual 70% or above, it might so easily have been a team bronze medal.

    One question remains. What if Pippa had been entered on the list as second reserve, with Duela as second horse, and the team vet had asked to see our vet’s report?

    Unless the vet procedures and communication thereof change, my advice to next year’s junior and young rider parents is to be a little more pushy. At least that way, unlike me, you’ll have no regrets.

    Judging discrepancies

    My second year at the Irish national championships was exciting and fun.

    In fact, the excitement in the warm-up arena — packed with over-fresh horses, some unstable riders and not a steward in sight — was enough to give horses and riders heart attacks.

    Overall, however, the standard has shot up, particularly at the top end; so much so that qualifying scores could now be raised. Nine in the grand prix pointed to a promising future; we’ll definitely be seeing more of the winners, Judy Reynolds with Vancouver K.

    One of the combinations I was helping lost a championship when a mark of 61% (not great) was awarded among a 66.89%, 67% and a 68% (good enough). Likewise, another championship was lost to what can only be described as an 11% judging error at the British nationals.

    Come on, judges. These partnerships have put in hours of work for these shows.

    Spanning the generations

    Goodness knows how many years it is since I first competed at the British national dressage championships. Let’s just call it four decades. Last month it was quite something to compete in the same classes as my two offspring, often following one another into the arena.

    It was an even prouder moment to accept from British Dressage a plaque for our family’s riding school, Talland, in memory of my mum, the late Mrs Sivewright.

    “In recognition of the outstanding contribution of Molly Sivewright FBHS, FIH, FABRS to dressage. Her pioneering approach inspired, developed and educated so many,” it says. Thank you — but how does one live up to that!

    Talking of fellows of the British Horse Society (BHS) reminds me to thank those visionaries who created the honorary fellowship. Bestowing it on beacons of equestrianism such as the late Kenneth Clawson, Ferdi Eilberg, Ian Stark, Stephen Clarke, Paul Fielder, Christopher Bartle and Mark Phillips has kept the qualification alive in the horsey public’s eyes.

    Looking around at the nationals, BHS spies must surely have spotted another prime candidate we fellows should not be without. We need him… although he may not need us.

    Can you guess who?

    This column was originally published in Horse & Hound magazine on Thursday 16 October, 2014