Charlie Hutton - International dressage rider - Talland School of Equitation, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Want to know what Charlie Hutton looks for in a dressage horse, how to get that elusive 80% and what it was like growing up at Talland? The international dressage star chats to Horse Scout and reveals the characters of his top horses, plus his insights into training them and his students
You’re the son of Pammy Hutton… were you born in the saddle?
Well, I don’t remember this, but apparently I started out riding in a basket on the back of a pony when I was just two years old. And then not much later I was put on one of my mum’s friend’s Grand Prix horses and was bucked off. It was downhill from there!
So you were always into horses?
No, actually I was always into sport and loved rugby and rowing but I wasn’t really interested in dressage until I was 14. Before that my mum used to bribe me and give me a pound every time I had a lesson — and let’s just say I wasn’t rich!
So what was your favourite discipline and what did you want to be when you grew up?
I jumped and hunted but the truth is I was more interested in the sausage rolls and port!
In terms of a career, I had high hopes of becoming an architectural engineer but then I got the dressage bug.
What made you change your mind and enjoy dressage? A particular horse?
No, for me it just wasn’t satisfying to walk, trot and canter. It was when I had the ‘OMG moment’ as I started to understand that you can communicate with a horse in such a unique way in dressage. Dressage requires such a wonderful bond with horse and rider. I remember at 14, going up to my mum and telling her I wanted to ride seriously and she just laughed because I think by then she’d just given up hope.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
I’m still waiting for it! Seriously, I haven’t got what I want yet.
But if I had to mention the ‘stand out’ moments it would be going to the Youth Olympics where I won team gold and individual silver. It gave me a real taste of what it must be like to be at an Olympics. Another memorable moment was at Bolesworth this year where Super Blue and I won the feature event beating Charlotte Dujardin — the lap of honour was really magical because there was Carl and I trotting around together as winners and Super Blue really gave me everything he had that night.
And your ultimate goal?
I’d like to be on a senior championship team in the next few years and I’ve always had it on my list to go to the Olympics, although I’ve realised that it’s harder in real life than on paper… as there’s a horse involved, it’s not just about how hard you train.
So who has — and still is — influential in your training?
My mother, Carl Hester and I also spent a few months with the German Olympic team training under Johnny Hilberath.
What were the big lessons they taught you?
My mum taught me a huge amount about test riding, and how to be crafty in the ring, while my time in Germany, instilled in me the basics and how to be quiet and discrete — you have to sit still (you can’t move at all).
Carl? Well, he picks up on things that you’ve been struggling with and revolutionises your way of going, often by saying one line that you go home with, think about, try and then discover it works. As he often says: “The simple way is the best way”. He is such a wonderful rider and is someone I have always looked up to.
And you also teach/coach?
Yes too much! Last year I taught over 2,000 lessons and I freelance all around the world in Europe and America.
At what level do you instruct?
Any! I teach anyone willing and I get a thrill seeing people improve whatever their level.
What’s the hardest thing about being a coach?
Improving the connection with horse and rider. The rider needs to be able to feel… you can’t just say ‘kick now’, ‘half halt now’. It’s so subtle but it’s the difference between getting 70% to 80%.
Any tips on how to achieve this?
It’s appropriate to the person I’m teaching and I’m learning that being a coach is more about being a counsellor and psychologist. Some people take it far too seriously and improve when they’re reminded to go out, have fun and enjoy it. Others need their back side kicking because they can do it but they’re all airy fairy… then there’s the complex person with a huge amount of ability (but doesn’t believe it) and switches between ‘I can’t do it’ and then ‘I can’ and puts too much pressure on.
If I had to give one tip that applies to a lot of students it would be ‘Be brave — trust your instincts and have confidence’.
And you also coach your wife Abi… is that challenging?
I would say ‘no’ she would probably say ‘yes’.
At first it was hard, I wanted her to do better than anyone else and got too intense but Carl warned me: “Rather than you making your wife cry and go into another man’s arms, why not let me do that and let her run into yours”. I now try to take the pressure off and Abi has learnt that when she thinks I’m not right, I sometimes am (especially when I have video footage to prove it!)
How do you keep fit?
I ride around five to seven horses a day… I love sport and staying fit and do quite a bit of running and play squash from time to time.
Tell us about your top horses?
At the top level, there’s Super Blue, a 17hh, 11-year-old gelding by Showstar, owned by Judy Peploe. I’ve had the ride since 2013 and he’s now training at Grand Prix and competing at middle tour. He’s not much of a thinker but it suits his nature to let me set the rules. He’s also a bit spooky and notorious for standing on his hind legs in prize givings.
I’m also riding an exciting future prospect called Hawkins Rosanna, a powerhouse with huge potential and ability. She’s an eight-year old chestnut mare by Ruben Royale and again, owned by Judy Peploe. I’ve been riding her for 18 months and it’s taken a long time to discuss with her the principles of dressage — at the beginning it was her way or the highway! I’ve now built up a relationship and she’s listening more. It’s been a true test of character to be patient and not to worry that she’s behind in her development. I am lightly competing at elementary and medium and plan to do more at medium and advanced medium later this year.
So do you prefer geldings?
No, I’ve ridden geldings, mares and stallions and every horse is different. I had a mare that I trained that was so easy it took just four days to teach piaffe!
You can’t just put label on it but mares generally take a bit longer because hormones involved.
So do you look more towards breeding when buying a dressage horse?
To a degree, yes. Breeding is good on paper for when it comes to selling a horse. It increases value if there’s a particular stallion that’s famous.
And do you prefer a certain bloodline or type of horse?
If I have a choice I’d probably choose a German horse over Dutch but generally they don’t have to have big movement, I just want them to move loosely through the back and show elasticity and natural suppleness. It’s important to look more to their paces, ability and desire to learn.
How do you keep your horses fit, strong, supple — and happy?
We’re very fortunate at our yard to have a steep hill leading up to a ridgeway so we do a lot of work up that in walk or at a very slow trot to strengthen their hind quarters — if they have a slight weakness, going up a hill slowly helps them to move their legs in straight fashion.
They’re also lunged in the EquiAmi to encourage them to stretch loose, long and low and we also use polework — it’s important to keep a varied routine.
Why Horse Scout?
It has sleek and stylish branding and there’s plenty of content from horses and stallions to riders and trainers — it’s unique to have it all combined together in one place.
Interview by Sam Lewis
Find out more on Horse Scout
Find out more about Charlie Hutton from The Talland School of Equitation and also those wonderful horses that Charlie Hutton campaigns and produces. At horse Scout we are always very grateful for these great tips from top professional riders especially when looking for horses for sale. Charlie Hutton talks about his Wife Abi Hutton. We have also interviewed Abigail Hutton, you can read the interview here or connect with her Professional Rider and Coach profile on Horse Scout by using this link.