Pammy Hutton: Lurking dressage bashers and planning for a better future *H&H VIP*

  • Now is the time to identify those 2016 goals. Although in the past I’ve criticised the UK Coaching Certificate scheme, one of its merits was to give me a clear goal-setting strategy. It’s all about plan A and plan B. You can move between the two if there’s a set-back; but there’s no room for a plan C.

    Goals should be ambitious and brave, but realistic, with stepping-stones provided.

    Many of my pupils are fed up with me asking “what are your 2016 goals?”, when what they really want is help with next week’s test. But while the long-term aim may seem daunting, working towards it improves interim results.

    Take the goal of riding a perfect 20m circle. Repeated in walk, trot or canter, it becomes boring with no improvement. So include transitions, ride as a diamond shape, then decrease and increase the size using leg-yielding. These additions help so many things — not least of which is the original 20m circle.

    Any horse due to be competing internationally in 2016 will benefit from a vet, physio, saddle fit, farrier and dentist check, now. And as riders, our fitness, weight, organisation, discipline and attitude – factors we can all improve – need attention now. It’s no good waiting until New Year to start that diet.

    Although I hate trainer-hopping, now’s the time to make the change if current arrangements aren’t bringing out the best. Or are we sometimes tempted to trainer-hop because the truth hurts?

    The hardest thing for many riders to change is their horse. Is it better sometimes to sell the one that’s not gifted enough, to perhaps put down the old favourite in pain in the field, save a bit and purchase one more suitable?

    A moment in time

    Study a group photo and you’ll see one or two ‘funny’ faces. Those who blinked or yawned at the crucial moment don’t actually look like that – yet their fleeting gestures are frozen in time for all to see.

    Likewise those dressage bashers who lurk, camera-phones at the ready to catch a moment. That it’s out of context holds no worries as within seconds it’s released across social media. The welfare implications are then dissected to death. It’s as though they’re desperate to witness the negative rather than learn from the positive.

    Last month, the FEI announced a review of “dressage training methods”, the plain English version being that they want to stop yanking, kicking and all else abusive to horses.

    Hopefully the FEI will also reach agreement on what constitutes valuable evidence of genuine wrongdoing.

    A wake-up call

    At last, a new, forward-thinking initiative for juniors and young riders.

    Next year there will be no specific tests for them at Premier League shows. Instead, they’ll compete in open junior and prix st georges classes, thereby earning points for nationals qualification but not having to over-compete.

    Competing against the “big boys” will be a wake-up call and should help them achieve over 70% needed for European medal contention too. Well done, BD!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 5 November 2015