‘Judges want to see a full pack­age’

Win­ning with har­mony is so dif­fi­cult for us to get right, says Pammy Hut­ton

Horse & Hound - - Dressage - Pammy Hut­ton FBHS is an in­ter­na­tional com­peti­tor, trainer of Olympic and Par­a­lympic medal­lists and mother to GB team mem­bers Char­lie and Pippa Hut­ton.

A TRIP to the Dres­sage Ire­land na­tional cham­pi­onships never fails to raise the spir­its. Things were more or­gan­ised than in 2014. The stan­dard was bet­ter too, al­beit with room for im­prove­ment, while par­tic­i­pa­tion has dou­bled —

840 tests is go­ing some.

OK, not all sur­faces were great and the mu­sic judges may have suf­fered ear­ache. There was still a slight gra­di­ent — dubbed “the hill”. But three 20x60m are­nas in­doors and an ex­cel­lent at­mos­phere com­pen­sated.

We’re lucky to have Area Fes­ti­vals, but Ire­land had Trond As­myr — former FEI di­rec­tor of dres­sage no less — judg­ing.

Mark Rud­dock, an­other top judge of­fi­ci­at­ing here, wasn’t sure when he last judged a pre­lim. Mr As­myr had surely not judged at novice level for years. How fab­u­lous for those lucky competitors.


THE Bri­tish Dres­sage na­tion­als have be­come my an­nual happy hunt­ing ground for a new win­ter coat. Horses were chang­ing theirs too. As I hid un­der my um­brella, I could only wish they’d move the blasted thing to a warmer month.

Nev­er­the­less, it ap­peared to run like clock­work. Di­vid­ing the work­ing-in into two was spot-on, judges were mostly in agree­ment and stew­ards on the ball.

The ubiq­ui­tous side­lines con­ver­sa­tion was about how it was now al­most im­pos­si­ble to beat Char­lotte Du­jardin in any class on any horse. My re­ply when asked was, “Here’s to a win­ter’s hard work!”.

The grand prix grabbed at­ten­tion as those at the top scored well — maybe not enough to gain medals at the next Olympics, but a much higher stan­dard than usual. Not all the fron­trun­ners were there, but five com­bi­na­tions over 70%, and higher marks still in the freestyle, bodes well.

The other win­ners at the na­tion­als were the trade­stand hold­ers. The dres­sage crowd are by far and away “the best shop­pers” one told me as I took cover in their tent.


JUST as I thought a lit­tle peace was de­scend­ing on the bits, tight nose­bands and hy­per­flex­ion front, some­one sent me pic­tures from Blen­heim of part­ner­ships well re­sist­ing the con­tact as they trav­elled cross-coun­try.

How aw­ful, was my first thought, swiftly fol­lowed by a mem­ory jolt of my first cross-coun­try horse pulling like a train and go­ing in a gag.

How do we com­pete, or don’t we? And how do we bridge that gap with the no shoes, no bri­dles, no con­nec­tion, no com­pe­ti­tions, let’s hug a tree lot? I’m work­ing hard through so­cial me­dia with Wil­liam Mick­lem FBHS and clas­si­cal trainer Heather Mof­fett to a) gain un­der­stand­ing, b) ap­pre­ci­ate both sides of the coin and c) move for­ward to a bet­ter com­pe­ti­tion fu­ture.

Sven Rothen­berger, whose son Sönke won dou­ble in­di­vid­ual sil­ver in Gothen­burg, says the key is to work on har­mony, which was rightly re­warded at the last Olympics.

“Times have changed,” he adds. “The judges want to see a full pack­age of sup­ple­ness, with good sub­mis­sion and a good frame. That’s the solution.”

Win­ning with har­mony — and thus bring­ing hap­pi­ness to all fac­tions — is so dif­fi­cult for us mere mor­tals to get right. There’s no doubt that the “hug a tree” lot have a point, some­times. But come on guys, all an­i­mals will say “no” at times. As with all things, it’s the bal­ance that counts. And, most of all, keep­ing an open mind to re­ceiv­ing and in­ter­pret­ing each other’s point of view.

How­ever, I still main­tain it’s im­pos­si­ble to gal­lop around Ain­tree or Blen­heim with a quiet, re­laxed con­tact. Or is it?

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