• International competitor and trainer of Olympic and Paralympic medallists, Pammy Hutton FBHS, shares her thoughts on ways to improve public perception of equestrianism

    We need to think outside the box to maintain the right to ride and compete – because even as equestrianism comes under threat, we’re still debating among ourselves what is and isn’t acceptable.

    I hate tight nosebands, yet one of my horses has a snug one. I love double bridles, but can ride in snaffles. I love to give pats, yet I’m told they’re unnecessary. And I prefer to wear spurs as they mean the aids can be more specific.

    Then there’s the public’s perception of us. It’s easy to look out of reach when you’re in the saddle, so we need to relate to people when out and about with our horses.

    A friend recently unloaded her horse in a forest car park to go for a hack, and encountered two gentlemen with Down’s syndrome walking with a friend. They were keen to meet the horse and were invited to pat him and take photos. It made their day, their friend told my friend. It made hers too.

    User-friendly horses

    Competition horses need to be equally user-friendly, to have their personalities brought out to endear them to the public.

    My mare Honeybrook Extra Special, who is by Negro – the same sire as Valegro – has a fan club and a sponsor or several. “Ebony” does dressage alongside eventing with Tom Rowland and keeps my dream of a grand prix and advanced event horse alive. Ebony loves her jumping, always has pricked ears, shakes with excitement before she goes cross-country and can get slightly grumpy when working on her canter pirouettes. She’s photogenic, loves her life and sells being a happy horse.

    We all remember Milton, Red Rum, Desert Orchid, Charisma, It’s Otto and the much-loved Valegro. These horses had proper fans desperate to stroke them and talk about them.

    Our message to the public is no longer that we need horses for our gratification; it’s about how they need us, and why. It’s about sharing the love, attention, care, exercise, feed – and fair, acceptable riding. We absolutely must get our dressage house in order and reward softness, ease and harmony and, while I’m at it, sound horses.

    As a huge fan of Carl Hester’s riding and production, I’m hopeful that this is his year. He showed such beautiful riding at Hartpury Festival of Dressage; he always puts his horses’ interests above his own while competing, therefore never taking his horses prisoner in the ring.

    Needs “more thrust”

    Hartpury was a brilliant show. From the person on the gate to the stewards and judges, you all put on a fabulous week. Meanwhile, I reminded myself what it’s like to compete – and how scary!

    Inputting judges’ scores and comments using computers, not writers, is definitely the way forward for test sheets. I miss the paper ones with longer personalised comments, but instant access can be useful.

    At Hartpury, I found the test sheet comment “more thrust” interesting. Almost worthy of a mid-test pause to discuss!

    Also at Hartpury, I left the Hudson Equine stand a lot poorer after an encounter with a young man, a salesman for sure, but also
    a horseman. Its founder Michael Hudson, a former international groom who has worked with top dressage riders and trainers, has what it takes to spot gaps in the market. It really helps when there’s horsey knowledge behind the goods.

    I feel like a proper grown-up now I own a bridle with bling and shock-absorbing stirrups. More importantly, I discovered pain-reliever range Incrediwear. Already my back is so much better. And if I compete again this year, I have Michael Hudson to thank.

    ● Would you prefer digital, instant-access dressage test sheets? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 3 August, 2023

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  • Autor Pammy Hutton


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    Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.


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