Pammy Hutton: ‘The judging was enough to put one on suicide watch’ *H&H VIP*

  • ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’… it’s all very well for John Keats to wax lyrical, but damp mornings and chilly evenings are hardly conducive to an outdoor festival of dressage.

    Yes, I’m bemoaning the late scheduling of our national championships.

    We were lucky with the weather this year, but please can this wonderful pinnacle of our British calendar happen on warmer days? I wasn’t alone in packing jumpers and tights, while horses were wrapped in winter duvets.

    Many other nations use their nationals to preview their teams and our home fans also deserve to see our best partnerships. Although the top three for the national title were potential team contenders, probably the top six British grand prix horses were missing.

    As a showcase of the full range of para, restricted and open classes, however, the nationals has no equal. I fell in love with many young horses and it bodes well for the future that the inter I was the strongest I’ve ever seen.

    Overall, the nationals were beautifully laid on and it was fabulous to be there, albeit on my unclipped, unshod, lives-out-at-night horse (who nevertheless took his duvet).

    ’Suicide watch’ judging

    I followed the Irish National Championships (4-6 September) with interest. I work with several riders over there, and our daughter-in-law Abi Hutton was competing.

    This being Ireland, it was a friendly show. But some of the judging was enough to put one on suicide watch. There was a 5.5 awarded to an international Olympic rider, who was sure she didn’t ride quite that badly, while an international small tour horse who’d previously always scored at least 7.5 for paces was given a paltry 5.5.

    Standards are improving in Ireland. So why did many judges appear to have left their marks on this side of the Irish Sea? Several combinations failed even to match their qualifying scores.

    Another example concerned a 10m circle in walk. How does this not equate to the minimum of 20m of walk required in this freestyle test?

    As every schoolboy knows, the circumference of a circle is its diameter multiplied by pi (3.14). Answer – 31.4m, not 20m. Yet each judge deducted two marks for error of course. To prove our point, we got out our measuring sticks — although one only had to do the maths, which clearly the judges hadn’t.

    As for posting the scores— while Abi was starting her test, our son Charlie was boarding a plane at Birmingham. He’d landed in Dublin and driven to the showground before his wife’s mark hit the scoreboard.

    If Irish dressage is to have a future, a long, hard look is needed at these championships.

    A good place to start would be having more encouraging judging. It isn’t only judges at the lower levels that should heed a mother’s plea (letters, 10 September), asking that her son receive at least one constructive comment per test.

    Hard work v therapy

    With so many therapies about, it’s sometimes forgotten that correct ridden work beats any so-called healing remedy.

    A well-known local veterinary practice frequently used to send horses to us to “work sound” — in other words, to be worked level and to encourage proper use of their muscles.

    Hill work, pole work and hacking should be in every horse’s diary this winter.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 8 October 2015