Pammy Hutton: Objective dressage judging is sacrosanct [H&H VIP]

  • Many riders with busy lives love dressage for its allocated test times. You can go to a show on a Sunday morning knowing you’ll be home in time to cook the family roast.

    Organisers often helpfully put riders entered in two classes at the end of one and beginning of the second. But for those with their sights on winning or qualifying, does the running order affect the scores given?

    Well, it shouldn’t, but given human nature, does it? For instance, if you’re early to go, could a judge be subconsciously cautious with scores in case a real blinder of a performance happened later, calling for higher marks? The same can apply if you’re unlucky enough to come in after an outstanding test. Compared with that, even a reasonable performance can look decidedly ordinary.

    Judging each combination objectively — rather than in relation to other competitors — should remain sacrosanct.

    Changes for the better

    As the season progresses, there’s change in the air. And it’s mostly for the good.

    Last month’s Somerford Park Premier League introduced betting. Apparently it was fun, but I’m not sure how much I’d dare wager.

    A big talking point has been the good news that from 1 December — when the new British Dressage (BD) competition structure is introduced — we will be taking a leaf out of the eventers’ book and allowing more advanced horses to compete in “open” novice classes.

    It will give riders a chance to learn the ropes, encourage more riders to be competitive and offer some older horses extended careers.

    On the downside, there have been moans about poor attendance at prize-givings.

    Without sponsors, there will be no prizes. So while we all want to get home after a show, turning up correctly dressed is a must.

    Better news comes from Northern Ireland, where there’s to be a new, friendly home international at The Meadows Equestrian Centre (15-16 August). With classes from ponies to grand prix, there’s sponsorship from the Northern Ireland Sports Board and concessions on ferry prices. Now that sounds tempting.

    Following the influx of new-look helmets, jackets are up for discussion. I advocate modernisation — although on realising that one must be stick thin to get away with the latest bum-freezer styles, it might just be a “no” from me!

    Medal contenders

    What a great time British dressage is having. With Rio 2016 only just over 12 months away, our senior team is truly one to reckon with. Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin and Fiona Bigwood currently top the list.

    Having been in attendance when Fiona had a bad fall [leaving her with double vision] last April, I’m so pleased to see her on a horse as good as Atterupgaards Orthilia, who’s bursting with more to come.

    Emerging partnerships like this give us strength in depth, a vital ingredient for international success.

    Our pony European team can be medal contenders. However, the juniors and young riders will have to work as never before to secure theirs. This latter bracket has been out of the medal zone for years. Excuses are not easy; every nation has school exams at this time of year.

    Britain’s under-25s at grand prix are not bad. But how I wish this standard was included in an international championship. For the likes of our daughter Pippa with Duela (pictured), qualifying for the senior grand prix classes at the nationals involves an enormous step up. And yet it’s such an important step for their future development.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 11 June 2015