Pammy Hutton: Telling myself to get a grip *H&H VIP*

  • Is dressage in need of a plain English campaign? The most helpful comment I’ve had so far this season was “get him on the bit” during an inter II warm-up, followed by “get him on the bloody bit”. The timing, accuracy and clarity was spot-on.

    But even when there’s more time to absorb advice — when reading a test sheet for instance — shouldn’t words of wisdom still be straightforward and understandable to all?

    When I was a judge, the hardest aspect was learning what’s perceived to be the required language. Whether it’s a prelim or an advanced test, comments should be definite rather than a matter of degrees. We’ve all had one judge say “needs to be more forward”, only for the next to remark “running”.

    When confusing words abound, care is needed about what’s taken on board. At least my horse is either “on the bloody bit” or it’s not.

    Milk, bread and early to bed

    Every time I compete, which I do as it helps with my teaching, I get very nervous. Yes, even at my age! To deal with the butterflies and feeling sick, I kick myself mentally and hard. It’s a process I’ve come to know only too well.

    Maybe my early days competing are to blame; like being sent to bed with milk and bread for having an unnecessary stop at a cross-country fence.

    Or the time I was banned from riding a lovely horse for three months because I hadn’t been in bed by 10pm, then rolled two poles in a Foxhunter jump-off. I knew the bedtime rule, and was always truthful… Or was it more recently, cantering in a piaffe and thus throwing British Dressage national championships qualification out of the window?

    There is no universal fix for nerves; one competitor’s saviour can be another’s downfall. In my case “get a grip” works best. It’s brilliant that our top riders have access to sports psychologists. The rest of us just have to get on, get into that arena and do it.

    As I write, regional championships are making me nervous. Will I ever grow up?

    Instinct over theory

    They say you should never alter anything just before a competition. But sometimes one has to risk change — in our case, a bridle for para rider Suzanna Hext.

    As was often the case with Abira, owned by our son Charlie and me, he took to kissing his knees in his familiar double bridle. Overnight thinking prompted us to swap it for a snaffle. Even though Abira rarely works in one, it made a huge difference for the better.

    Horses are animals, so need treating individually. And sometimes it’s worth trusting instinct over theory.

    Perfection, down to the loos

    It was an absolute privilege to see so many British senior team members at Hartpury.

    Thank goodness the “we prefer to compete abroad” syndrome is no longer so fashionable. No wonder the crowds flocked to this friendly, well-organised show.

    Hickstead had big screens, live scoring, electric bells and next year’s team hopefuls trying hard. Two internationals back-to-back like this give selectors and fans alike a really good barometer.

    It’s many years since I complained about Hickstead’s loos. Well, Dane Rawlins, your shows — and loos — are now perfect. You’re to be congratulated for your vision, while all you do to encourage the young has not gone unnoticed.

    Meanwhile at Stoneleigh, a reported 4,000 took part in the Trailblazers championships. With whole families having a wonderful time, that’s what it’s all about.

    Fighting for the fourth spot

    The first three choices for our senior European Championship team were never in doubt. But who would join Carl Hester with Nip Tuck, Charlotte Dujardin with Valegro and Fiona Bigwood with Atterupgaards Orthilia caused much speculation.

    Michael Eilberg with Marakov is the perfect choice for team safety with his improving scores.

    Spencer Wilton, named first reserve, is knocking firmly on the door with Super Nova. However, the partnership I really hope settles to the task in hand is Gareth Hughes and Classic Briolinca. Wow, now that is a horse for an Olympic year.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 6 August 2015