Report from Talland Study Day

Tuesday 20th April 2021

The 5.30 am alarm went off, this usually means one of two things – either I am off eventing or I have to get up to get hirelings ready for autumn hunting. Today neither was the cause of my early alarm, instead I was off to “Talland“ for my first “Study Day” as a newly qualified BHSI.
Coming from the Essex/Suffolk borders, on a good day my journey according to google maps should be just over three hours. Unfortunately google maps has still not adjusted to the fact that despite the M25 being a motorway it rarely moves at more than 40 miles an hour so I add at least another 40 minutes to the google time allowed.

On the road at 6am I arrived just in time for the 9.45am meet and greet. Enough time to find the loo and grab a cup of tea, I was suitably impressed with the very smart selection of biscuits and was even more impressed that I abstained from consuming one!

I love visiting other centres, always on the lookout for new ideas to take away, interested in what has changed since my visit there in November where I achieved the equitation part of the BHSI. It’s a lot greener, there is less mud and I noted the evidence of spring everywhere, including the flowers in the toilet which was a very nice touch.

I had opted to ride, a bold move for one so newly qualified, but in for a penny in for a pound, and where else would we get the opportunity to ride such a fabulous selection of educated horses for a mere £60?

The introduction began with Pammy moving swiftly through housekeeping (covid protocol) and on to business. As an avid follower of her on social media I was not surprised to hear her discuss the indoor arena debacle that she and Tim Downes have forced government to debate, and we listened on with interest. I am not whole heartedly behind the indoor school debate, probably because my centre doesn’t have one and we have a major shortage of them in East Anglia, oh and I am an event rider so would rather work my horses outside, but I have huge admiration for her passion and desire and you can only have respect for the hours she has put in to help those who do rely on their indoor schools.

The day was billed as a “study day” – I am not sure what as a newbie I was expecting. I was keen to ride different horses that were working at a good level, and I was aware we would have to discuss our horses in front of other Fellows and BHSIs. I was not prepared to be quite so star struck, with no less than 8 Fellows of the Society in presence including some of my childhood idols, I don’t mind admitting my Apple Watch kept telling me my heart rate was above what it should be when simply rubbing shoulders with some of these equestrian masters.

Now I might be brash enough to put my name down to ride some lovely horses, realistically what horseman would turn down that opportunity, but I wasn’t aware it was quite such a recruitment drive for the Fellowship. I am still at the “delighted to be invited into this Association” stage and can’t say the idea of taking one’s Fellowship has ever been more than a childhood whim. The realisation of quite how special you need to be dawned on me shortly after passing my Intermediate some 30 years ago, when I moved away from the BHS to pursue my passion to race-ride and then to event.
Determined not to waste the opportunity to enjoy riding such super horses, I did my best to put my competition head on and ride despite feeling like a kid nicking sweets in a sweet shop while the owner watches you on the cctv.

Having done a good bit of showring judging, I have an eye for what I like to ride. I am a thoroughbred girl at heart and was delighted I made it swiftly to the TB in the line-up. To be honest I would happily have ridden any of them, I know Talland well enough to know each and every one will have something to teach us.

All riders were encouraged to go and enjoy the horses. I loved mine and it was right up my street, within minutes I had forgotten about the gallery of famous people watching and did what I love doing, riding horses.

My next ride was a smart-looking horse. One whose path I had crossed previously. Being rather enormous I had turned him down for my centre so I was intrigued to sit on him. His size and the feed bill that goes with a horse of this size was why I turned him down, and I am still in awe of how Pammy manages to make the books balance keeping so many of these higher maintenance horses. This I think is a skill that is needed to achieve your Fellowship and one she is not afraid to vocalise.

The polar opposite of the first horse, I had fun playing but never really felt at home on this giant. It led me to question how one gets the experience of riding these sort of horses, apart from on days like today where the opportunity is given to so many. It is not the sort of horse I would entertain buying, and in fact even when offered to me I turned it away.

My vocalisation of this question led to the answer that if you wish to achieve your Fellowship, you should not be so fussy and need to have the ability to ride all. I am now left with the dilemma, that perhaps I should have taken the luxury biscuit on offer by the coffee urn instead of dieting to continue to ride my own 15.2hh TB.

I have learnt that if you ask Pammy a question you will not get the answer you expect, you will get the answer she thinks you deserve. So if you’re timid keep your mouth shut! Another skill I have yet to learn.

My next horse would be one my Polish student would call a “professor“ – now I am a well-travelled equestrian and whatever you may think of Talland and Pammy you will go a long way to see such an extensive team of “professor“ horses.

Despite feeling like a goldfish in a bowl at a fairground, I thoroughly enjoyed my riding today and will, if they will have me, be back again at the next opportunity.

The second group then took to the reins of yet more established, happy and well produced horses. I am not sure if they were more confident as they were second up or if they were just more able, but it was a joy to watch others ride and observe plans and ideas and see how such a diverse group of riders all share in one common ground, the joy of training horses.

The day led to many small independent discussions, all incredibly interesting and I personally enjoyed hearing where people came from and what their backgrounds are.

A quick lunch was then followed by being allowed to watch Pippa’s new young horse work on the lunge. I have always admired how good the Huttons are at sharing their horses with others. Many elite riders of their standing would want to keep their future ammunition to themselves. Their passion, and I mean both Pammy and Pippa, is infectious, a clear desire to include and inspire others to enjoy this special sport called equestrianism. But woe betide anyone who would dare to think it’s an easy journey. They will happily share but you will have to work for it if you want to sit alongside them.

The afternoon saw some brave souls coach students in front of us all. Thankfully for them it was not that easy for us to hear what they were saying. We could however see the improvement of the way the horses and riders performed, and we were able to listen to the debrief which they kindly allowed us to hear.

We were graced with the presence of Alex Copeland, Director of Education at the BHS, who was open to questions from the floor. I had expected more from the Q and A section, with so many equestrian greats in residence I was expecting discussion. It seems that those wiser than myself have learned not to raise questions under the watchful eye of Pammy, instead we should undertake the day as it was billed and “study”.

I can’t sign off without stating how much appreciation I have for the opportunity to attend days like today, to be surrounded by “professors” equine and human. To ride alongside other able and passionate riders, and to listen to the words of wisdom bouncing from the walls of the indoor school.

Report by Lisa Spence BHSI