Pammy Hutton: We need expertise, not just energy *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    How often are parish councillors accused of being bossy, interfering busybodies? Trouble is, they’re the only ones with the time, energy and enthusiasm to do the job — so everyone else lets them get on with it. Until the councillors get power-crazed and go too far…

    How much knowledge of dressage should our sport’s chairmen and committee members have? And is time, energy and enthusiasm sufficient to make up for any shortfall in expertise? Of course, we need savvy business people and structure. But we need knowledge and experience, too.

    It’s that old chestnut — the ones with the know-how are too busy producing horses and riders for championships. But why can’t these valuable riders, judges and/or trainers be invited to attend relevant committees on a one-off basis?

    The composition of top FEI committees is currently under discussion, one proposal being to restrict it to those who have competed at the past two Olympics. But they’d find more great people — with more time to give — if they changed that to any two Olympics.

    The findings of the investigation commissioned by the British Equestrian Federation, following the resignation of its former chief executive Clare Salmon, have been well aired.

    Its authors highlighted allegations of “a climate of fear” at British Dressage (BD), although it was not within their remit to investigate this further. It sounds damning, but on the other hand, in today’s politically correct climate, just how does one remove personnel without being accused of bullying?

    The BD board has a mountain to climb. So does this mean changes at the top — or can lessons be learnt, and fast?

    What is disabled?

    The grading of para riders and what constitutes disabled never fails to amaze me.

    A pupil of mine with a tracheostomy has been declined low-grade classification. This pupil arrives with a first-aid kit and how-to-resuscitate instructions, has had 18 operations for cancer and breathes through a tube that has to be cleaned every half hour. I suggested approaching the para dressage authorities.

    Have you ever seen a tracheostomy at the Olympics? No, neither have I. So please, let’s be realistic, para-grading powers that-be, and give this talented rider a break.

    So much choice

    It’s great dressage is becoming so diverse. But with league tables for natives, Arabs, gypsy cobs, veterans, ex-racehorses and My Quest, to name but some, it’s what to try to qualify for that’s becoming a quandary for some (see Which Way Forward?, 22 March).

    On top of that, with many qualifications decided by points on a leaderboard, several riders are worried about overdoing their budgets and horses.

    The only thing that put the brakes on it all was the cold weather. Frozen outdoor surfaces wrecked regional championship preparation for many.

    Summerhouse and Wellington are to be congratulated on postponing their regionals, thus putting road safety and horse welfare first. Anyway, their judges in the “red weather warning” zone may well have frozen to death.

    “Lunge before you leave,” became our mantra after one pupil got bucked off at a regional. The earliest we’ve done this was 3.30am — but better to have horses settled than over-fresh.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 29 March 2018