Pammy Hutton: what do we really ‘need’? [H&H VIP]

  • Addington International raised its game again with an under-25 grand prix and a Brightwells’ sale of elite young dressage horses.

    Many volunteers and benefactors make this show special. Jennie Loriston-Clarke was inspirational in her support in every direction; her experience radiates in every sphere. Islay Auty ran a tight ship!

    In the arena, the ponies were very good; the juniors looked to have team possibilities, and the young riders appeared promising, with work to do.

    I hope British Dressage (BD) will consider incorporating qualification via the under-25 grand prix into our senior national championships. Having studied the respective tests, there’s little difference between them: all that’s needed is an under-25 qualifying score set one or two percentage points higher than the seniors’. Such an initiative could save up-and-coming partnerships from over-running at this level. They are, after all, the future.

    Physical and mental exercise

    How easy it is to travel from trainer to trainer, or drift from one lecture-demonstration to another, adopting all the big points and forgetting the good things learnt from the one before.

    I like to think of putting all acquired knowledge into a big container, then pulling out what’s needed on the day for the horse in question.

    Keeping notes about what works for each horse helps enormously. I still have my notebooks from 40 years ago; and it’s amazing how much remains relevant — and forgotten!

    Realising that how and what we think affects our horses is a good starting point. It’s a subject on which my mother Molly Sivewright wrote two books. Still Spain’s top coaching manuals, they’re sadly out of print in Britain. But it remains true that our every thought while riding, positive or negative, is transmitted to our horses.

    Yes, riding is a mental and physical exercise combined. And amid the currently strong trend to cure problems with anything and everyone — except improved riding — I’m worried.

    Everywhere I go I hear how there are “needs”, from a special saddle (mine is 15-years-old and still performs well) to a physio, from a new bit to a training aid. Correct riding may take more effort, but the effects are much longer-lasting — and money-saving, too.

    Mad hatters

    Having splashed out £600 on a new riding hat for my daughter — only that particular style would do and it was Christmas — I was devastated to then learn that she wouldn’t be allowed to compete in it after this season.

    Thank goodness BD are now permitting hats to the BS EN1384 standard until the end of 2016. So, Pippa’s new hat has now cost me “only” £300 a season, instead of £600.

    Meanwhile, we’re still allowed to wear top hats at the upper levels. Talk about mad hatters…

    Retake the reins

    Proof at last that the dearth of riding schools is causing a decline in the riding population.

    The latest National Equestrian Survey, newly published by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), puts the UK’s number of regular riders — those who ride at least once a month — at 1.3 million. The equivalent figure five years ago was 1.6 million.

    Even allowing for the fact that it takes the horse world over a year to recover from recession, I hope more people take up or take back the reins.

    Another concerning finding from this survey is the reason most people gave for no longer riding. It wasn’t the cost, but access to horses and a lack of time. Unless you have your own riding horse — and few non-riders do — it’s only the riding schools that can provide equestrian access en masse.

    Expensive marks

    I hear from a friend in the north that some shows are charging competitors £1 or £2 for the privilege of collecting their test sheets. Come on show organisers, with entry fees ranging from £14 to £50, surely that’s enough to cover all costs? At this rate, dressage will make eventing look cheap!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 9 April 2015