Where can you drive a Ferrari down the motorway, and have no breaks? Feel 15 different gears or get something for nothing? The British Dressage National Championships, of course! Today is Part 1 of short series of blogs sharing the latest news from dressage judges, coaches and riders via radio commentary throughout the show, giving you the opportunity to discuss controversial, challenging and inspirational areas of Dressage. From the ‘Code of Points versus Collectives’ to the ‘Charlotte Factor’, what did I learn from the 2016 British Dressage National Championships?
The number 1 topic for discussion? Restructuring by British Dressage (BD) to achieve three different ‘ring-fences’ for riders; Gold, Silver and Bronze, replacing an Open or Restricted classed rider. The hundreds of conversations throughout the show fascinated me, such varied opinions and solutions – I do feel for British Dressage.
As a full time employee who evented with British Eventing (BE) on my one horse, some 20 years ago, I remember thinking BE should review its structure, to reflect its core membership…the one horse owner. Introduce ‘divisions’ or ‘leagues’ to reflect the stage of you and your horses training… I knew we were the foundation of eventing, both financially and to run a smooth event, logistically. Don’t get me wrong, the multiple rider (who was professional – hence the multiple rides) were always way more exciting for the sport. A regular to all the organisers and volunteers, eventing week in, week out, successfully riding 6 different horses across 3 different disciplines, in two different sections! I still have the same admiration for these riders as back then – forever the professional. But that was my point. They were professionals. Why would amateurs beat professionals? Even on a young/inexperienced horse? Personally I never needed to ‘beat a professional’ to validate my riding or feed my ego, but I do remember thinking if that ever happened, I would know the professional was having an ‘off day’, like the rest of us, and ‘beating the professional’ was not an objective measure of my performance. But it did cost a small fortune to compete BE, even back then. So to be just out of the placings in a ‘strong section’ only ever felt, well expensive.
Years later and I am delighted BE have listened to its members and ‘ring-fenced’ competitions for amateurs to set realistic goals and experience the fulfilment of achievement in life. The Badminton Grassroots competition is inspired. I work closely with clients whose goal is to qualify for and compete at Badminton. Grassroots. Perhaps so too is the new BD structure? If it is genuinely ‘ring-fencing’ similar riders on different levels of horse, I get it British Dressage.
By listening at the Nationals it seems to have had the greatest impact on the one horse amateur, who may have been inspired by the Olympic’s, investing regularly in training, to compete and ‘proof’ their stage of training…yet unable to qualify for the now oversubscribed Area’s. Perhaps a few more tweaks will deliver the best for all members, especially those whom BD have worked so hard to attract since the success of British Dressage at London 2012 Olympics. British Dressage, this is your time. You have done all the hardwork engaging interest, generated by our Olympians, converting to BD members. Now is the time to deliver a system for all your members that places the horse at the centre of the competition framework; improving welfare and education by promoting realistic challenges, for all levels of membership. A competition structure that educates and improves the well being of all horses, whilst facilitating attainable competition goals for all, has a sustainable future.
Be brave British Dressage. Tweak away if you need to, but never lose sight of your foundation members. These are the riders who are passionate about better communication, clarity and safety with their horses. Your foundation members are hungry to learn, driven to communicate clearly and effectively, even whilst their positions are poor, they have legitimate goals – to ride effectively. They are passionate to demonstrate to BD judges lightness and harmony, whom they hope will assess accurately, each movement, so they can learn, improve and progress from constructive comments.
Have you been effected by the recent changes? Please share how and what happened or would have happened if you carried on with your membership…
Watch out for Part 2 next week.