Gripes need a proac­tive re­sponse

Pammy Hut­ton analy­ses the blame cul­ture that is driv­ing com­peti­tors away

Horse & Hound - - Dressage -

DO we need a dres­sage om­buds­man? Well, yes, ac­cord­ing to the stream of phone calls and emails I’ve re­ceived from frus­trated com­peti­tors.

OK, con­sumers — which is what com­peti­tors are — like to com­plain. But what’s be­hind the cur­rent blame cul­ture sweep­ing our sport? And who’s to han­dle it? To be fair to Bri­tish Dres­sage (BD), they do in­ves­ti­gate and re­spond to com­plaints. But, by then, the moment to qual­ify or achieve a win or a place has gone. The dam­age is done.

So does the an­swer lie with bet­ter train­ing and brief­ing of judges, stew­ards and show or­gan­is­ers? Or per­haps BD needs more peo­ple on the ground at shows in­stead of re­spond­ing to emails from of­fices in Stoneleigh?

Here’s a se­lec­tion of com­plaints for which I can only take my cor­re­spon­dents’ words. Horse elim­i­nated for lame­ness when it was sound. Miss­ing qual­i­fy­ing when beaten by rider on a “ringer”. Awards with­held due to non-ap­pear­ance at prize-giv­ing de­spite per­mis­sion be­ing given by show or­gan­iser. Mud­dled pa­per­work caus­ing rider to lose qual­i­fi­ca­tion…

Then there have been a raft of riders con­tact­ing me about stew­ards loos­en­ing curb chains, with re­sults from dis­as­trous to dan­ger­ous.

I won’t pa­tro­n­ise by say­ing that our sport is sup­posed to be fun. When blood, sweat, tears and cash are ex­pended, th­ese are some of the heart­felt cries of frus­tra­tion com­ing my way.

“I’m a one-horse rider and pay a lot of money to be a mem­ber of an af­fil­i­ated or­gan­i­sa­tion. I don’t ex­pect this type of er­ror to be made.”

“My BD mem­ber­ship has now ex­pired and I will not re­new (de­spite hav­ing qual­i­fied for Pet­plan sec­ond rounds) un­til they’ve taken this se­ri­ously.” “I felt to­tally hu­mil­i­ated.” “I have with­drawn from their Premier League show and won’t sup­port a venue that treats peo­ple like that.”

And, per­haps sad­dest of all: “It dis­tressed me on what was sup­posed to be an ex­cit­ing day I had worked so hard for.”

Pro­fes­sional and am­a­teur riders are among those protest­ing. Some have for­warded me po­lite but frankly bland re­sponses from BD in an­swer to their com­plaints.

When I men­tioned in

H&H that a pupil’s horse had been gonged out for al­leged lame­ness, I was phoned by top judge David Trott for an opin­ion. I was im­pressed. We all pay the same BD subs, so I hope we all get­ting equal and fair gov­er­nance.


IN this liti­gious era, Richard Davison puts an in­ter­est­ing spin on the topic of BD stew­ards ad­just­ing curb chains.

“I was alarmed to read about this,” he told me. “I’m in­volved in FEI mat­ters con­cern­ing stew­ard­ing pro­to­cols but not BD’s, so I’m un­clear as to what their stew­ards are in­structed to do. In the BD rule book, the only ref­er­ence I can find about fit­ting a curb chain is that it must be fit­ted in a ‘con­ven­tional way’. If this is the only de­scrip­tion, then it’s too open to per­sonal in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

“If I were BD, or a com­pe­ti­tion or­gan­iser, I’d be very con­cerned about li­a­bil­ity in the event of a per­sonal in­jury claim, pur­sued either by a rider or a third party, who might ar­gue that the stew­ard’s ac­tion con­trib­uted to an ac­ci­dent. Surely BD has a duty to pub­lish a clear def­i­ni­tion of what is deemed too tight?”


ONE fi­nal thought from me about a suit­able tool to mea­sure the re­quired two fin­gers in nose­bands: it needs to be soft, ta­pered and com­fort­able. I can’t think of any­thing more suit­able than a dildo!

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