On a very cold March morning with a forecast of snow on the way we arrived at the impressive facilities at Talland. Everyone had their warm coats, woolly hats and blankets to get them through the day. Talland staff very kindly provided tea, coffee and biscuits to help keep us warm. Some were there to ride, some to coach, some did both, the rest observed and got involved in discussion.
Pammy Hutton FBHS and Islay Auty FBHS began by setting out a theme for the day which was “Communication and Feel”. Pammy explained that the day was all about riding and coaching. As coaches we have to constantly revamp the way we look at things and receive further training. It is the horses and the people that say whether we are up to scratch.
Pammy compared training for the Fellowship with doing a dressage test. A rider can get 72% in a test but not necessarily in all of it. If they do another test they might get a similar score but with blips in different places. As you address the blips in one part of a test they may appear in others. When training for the Fellowship Pammy explained you have to continue along the journey of improving your “blips”. From the coaching point of view Islay explained that at Fellowship level you have to make a difference. Yes you have to train to your philosophy and principles but it is no good just telling them, you have to get riders to buy in to what you tell them.
The first four to ride were Dan Spencer, Anne Bondi, Gemma Porter-Rawlings and Caroline Peatfield. They were allocated a group of four novice horses, Albie, King, Graham and Caine. All were in snaffles apart from one which was in a double bridle which made us all think this horse maybe knew a bit more. The horses were beautifully turned out a testament to the hard work of the staff at Talland. All four horses were very different so there was lots to discover for the riders and lots to discuss in the audience. As Pammy briefed the riders to go and assess the horses she explained to the audience that a horse will go under the rider as they are ridden. Any strengths, weaknesses or insecurities the horse will pick up. For this reason Pammy stated that the horses are the judges.
As we watched the horses and riders work in, we were asked for observations. Which horse would we take home, and why? Would one of them suit a client? What do we think they have done or could do? Pammy didn’t miss a thing. Despite talking to the audience she was keeping a close eye on all her horses. Riders got the opportunity to swap horses and Pammy filled us in on each horse’s history. Riders then got the opportunity to provide comments and feedback on the horses they had ridden. All the horses eagerly awaited their sugar lumps from Pammy before having a well-earned rest.
The same group of four riders then had the opportunity to ride the advanced schoolmasters, Ratio, Dui, Enjoy and Reuben. The riders were in for a treat getting a chance to sit on these beautifully presented, quality horses. Now a fifth horse appeared, it was Magnum. He was for Pammy to ride. As the riders worked the horses in, Pammy rode quietly around the arena on the stunning Magnum giving tips and advice to all the riders as to how to get the best out of each horse. We all watched with delight these beautiful horses work through a variety of advanced movements. There were a number of horse swaps to allow each rider to get the feel for more than one horse. At the end riders gave feedback on the horses they had ridden. Pammy and Islay helped them to word the feedback in a constructive way.
While waiting for the next group of horses Pammy recalled something her mother had said; “Nobody should have their Fellowship unless they can stand in any indoor or outdoor anywhere in the world and deliver.”
Next up to ride were David Llewellyn, Lisa Spence, Hilary Clemerson and Brendan Bergin. Again all riders had the opportunity to ride novice horses and then advanced horses with a similar format to the previous session. The novice horses were Billy, Rosie, Waldo and Betty. The advanced horses were Froggie, Headley, Belmondo and Maddie. This time on foot Pammy moved around the arena providing pearls of wisdom to the riders. From the audience it was really interesting being able to discuss the way of going of each horse and the riding styles that we saw in front of us. Again Pammy and Islay provided lots of very useful thoughts on riding and training the movements.
Really starting to feel the cold it was definitely time for a hot lunch. We were treated to a selection of hot food, salads and breads in the Talland cafe. Talking to some of the riders over lunch it was evident that everyone was delighted with the opportunity to ride the variety of quality horses available at Talland. Where else would you get the opportunity to ride advanced schoolmasters that are actually out competing regularly at the level.
After lunch it was time for coaching. Pammy and Islay took a coach and rider each. First up to coach were Anne Bondi and Gemma Porter-Rawlings with riders Sarah on Froggie and Raffi on Enjoy. Both coaches were given briefs and sent off to assess their riders.
As we watched the coaching sessions there was lots of discussion on topical issues including social media, social licence to operate and the closure of riding schools. Pammy referred to a statistic that due to the closure of riding schools it is estimated that there were 1.5 million fewer riding school lessons in the UK last year. A staggering statistic. It is the riding schools that start many riders on the journey towards BHS qualifications and eventually the Fellowship.
When Gemma and Anne were finished they were invited to de-brief their sessions with Pammy and Islay. They were given lots of positive feedback as well as constructive comments to help to polish their coaching. Next up to coach were David Llewellyn and Dan Spencer with riders Faye on Magnum and Pippa on Marksi. Finally all eyes were on Brendan Bergin as he coached Jackson on Ebony.
For many of us it is not easy to get experience coaching at this level, so for all of the coaches it was a great opportunity to work with advanced horses and talented young riders. All the coaches gave fantastic lessons and left with lots of useful tips and areas for improvement from Pammy and Islay. To round up the afternoon session Islay explained that all the coaching sessions had value. She encouraged everyone to continue to develop their knowledge, skill and coaching technique.
A huge thanks has to be said to wonderful team at Talland. We were all made very welcome and the horses were presented beautifully. A massive thank you to Pammy Hutton and Islay Auty for challenging, encouraging and inspiring us in the hope that one day we can take the Fellowship assessment. Their knowledge and experience was appreciated by all throughout the day. Thanks to Judith Murphy FBHS for organising the day.
Mark Robinson BHSI