Pammy Hutton: Should we recycle our top horses? *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    It would have been wonderful riding at our National Dressage Championships, but a 24-hour bug dictated the bathroom for me as I was unable to stand upright.

    My pupils there were helped a great deal by a tip I gleaned from a TV programme about stress. Apparently, it’s been scientifically proven that one should not try to think, “Stay calm,” but rather, “I’m excited.”

    Indeed, qualifying this year reminded me how it remains every competitor’s dream to get to a championship.

    However, I’m concerned about whether former top horses are being recycled at their peril, such as ex-grand prix horses being downgraded and competed by less experienced riders. Should British Dressage be protecting them?

    On the plus side, these experienced horses teach so much. But are they being confused by being asked to do things they can’t, due to a lack of setting up for movements by less experienced riders? It’s a bit like missing a stride to a fence, something that I bet flicks across some event horses’ brains when downgraded from advanced to BE80.

    I’m just not sure this is fair to horses who have already given their all.

    Students should muck in

    If you want a career riding horses, of course it helps to have an established and well-resourced background.

    However, many yards give scholarships or apprenticeships in various guises. We have done so here at Talland ever since my mother, Molly Sivewright, awarded Emile Faurie a scholarship years ago, and will continue to do so.

    Scholarships are a way forward, but there must be give and take between scholar and provider. Manual work can come as a harsh reality to some, today’s work ethic not being what it once was.

    It costs students to go to university. Likewise, those lucky enough to receive an equestrian scholarship should remember that costs, too. Gone are the good old days — we now pay someone to muck out, so students getting to the top of the class should muck in.

    Future talent

    Charlotte Fry is my hot tip for future British senior teams. She has a world young horse championship under her belt, followed by the European under-25 crown; never mind my glass being half full, it’s positively overflowing with optimism.

    What a star in the making and how refreshing to see Lottie emerge to give our established stars a shake-up. I lent a helping hand with a perfect pony for Lottie years ago. How proud her father must be and I just know her mother, the late Olympian Laura Fry, would be bursting.

    It’s holiday time

    Preparations for 2019 start now. But first, holidays for horses and humans are a must, and my horses and I will be on ours as you read this.

    On return, next year will be planned, organised and mapped out. Competitions go into my diary first, then teaching days.

    Once hopes and aims are decided, back-up plans can be made in case all else fails. But it’s best to think positive.

    Tack repairs, lorry MOT, a bit more (vital) training for me is all being scheduled in before Christmas. My doctor taught me years ago to build in the odd day just to organise life, plus a proper weekend or two off.

    And let’s not forget to grant ourselves some time simply to enjoy being with our horses, the friends that make the entire struggle worthwhile.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 25 October 2018