Pammy Hutton: ‘If social media were shut down, life’s problems wouldn’t go away’

  • British Horse Society Fellow Pammy Hutton reflects on social license, social media and the importance of appreciating the little things

    The recent review of the use of the whip in racing and the elimination of blood rules in Aachen dressage competitions remind us how vulnerable our social license to exploit equestrian sport has become.

    As Jane Nixon, president of the Showing Council, said in Horse & Dog“A growing proportion of Western media believe that the horse should not be ridden at all, for ethical, physical and mental reasons. This challenge is not new, but its scope and pace of change have increased dramatically.

    Historically, newspapers were the main source of information. And they at least, unlike social media, have been edited. Word-of-mouth gossip, whispered behind one hand, was the way negative information was usually spread. The shops in the village and the cafes in the show center knew everything!

    Now everything is there; instant and uncensored. Yes, social media is the giant here to stay and we have to learn how to manage it. Every written word, every picture must be displayed with care. In the meantime, everyone has the right to free speech and fair comment. For example, I feel justified in saying that perhaps those who believe we shouldn’t ride horses should consider the major slaughter that would ensue if we stopped.

    Social media can be extremely destructive. But if we refuse, we fail. One can use it to raise money for charities and riding schools, like I did during Covid, or expose abuse, promote business, share fun and laughter, find friends from childhood and catching up with people abroad.

    The screen acts as an equalizer of skills, knowledge and experiences. Therefore, for some, everyone’s opinion is valid and in some cases taken as gospel, while others feel capable of challenging even the most prestigious people.

    While it’s great to raise money for good causes or highlight wellness issues, that same push of a button can spawn so much negativity and harm. Mean remarks destroy the timid and can have far-reaching effects. I’m still recovering from asking why I didn’t retire from competition.

    But if social media were shut down tomorrow, life’s problems wouldn’t disappear overnight. So we need to learn how to make it work positively for us, especially when it comes to promoting and protecting equestrian sports.

    Wall-to-wall action in Hartpury

    HARTPURY Festival of Dressage had wall-to-wall action and was fun, all the more so for me because – having taken the weight issues to heart – I rode there three-quarters of a stone lighter than at the start of the year.

    While you may be – and I’m glad to be corrected – Hartpury’s oldest competitor, you celebrate every day that you can make your parents’ memories proud.

    Likewise, you appreciate it when the overseas judge gives you almost 70%, because you know how hard it is to drive straight, stop squarely, stamp your feet without going a mile – and smile without crack.

    Simply, spending that day in an arena with my horse made me happy to push myself 110%. OK, so I dropped the side by missing my rows of changes. Maybe a certain wedding and upcoming mother-of-the-bride duties caught my attention…

    A tough winter ahead

    OVERALL, admissions are down across the country as the costs of competition hit us from all sides. How many canceled events and shows will reappear and how many financially marginalized runners will discover there is more to life than competition and not return?

    Many horse owners are looking for ways to save before what could become a tough winter. My grandmother taught her 25 horses to toughen up in a bucket to the whistle; it saved straw. Cost reduction will be essential for many, but horse welfare must remain a priority.

    I have long extolled the virtues of home cooking over expensive ready meals. These days, in the midst of so many price hikes, nettle soup suddenly appears as an attractive addition to the menu.

    ● What are your tips for reducing costs? Tell us at [email protected]

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday July 28

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