COMMENT: It might take a degree in astrophysics to get your head around BD’s proposed competition restructure, but hurrah for a governing body giving members the opportunity to have their say

I’m going to go on about affiliated dressage competition eligibility criteria. Stay with me…

Even if you couldn’t care less how many points would push you out of novice classes, or what group number would make you unwelcome in elementary, it’s significant that the sport’s governing body, British Dressage, would like to know what you think. Who doesn’t love a little democracy?

They’ve thought their new proposals through, along with riders from grassroots to grand prix, and venue organisers, too. But rather than taking the position that they know the way forward — like it or lump it, punters — they are insisting they haven’t got it right just yet and would rather like your input. No god complexes at BD HQ then. Isn’t that refreshing.

Olympians at novice

The changes would give the likes of Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin (and any other rider who has contested big tour) the option to compete at prelim, novice and elementary on inexperienced horses. At the moment, they have to ask their stable jockeys to do so. But Charlotte, for example, doesn’t have a stable jockey.

This would give grand prix riders the chance to get youngsters out in non-young horse classes — a blessing since young horse classes don’t suit all young horses.

However, it also means that novice open (or “gold” under the new system, see below) riders might find themselves competing against an Olympian. Gulp.

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But then this is what happens all the time in eventing — and isn’t it the best thing ever, to beat one of your heroes, even if they do happen to be riding a five-year-old on its debut?

I wonder if this will prevent new, talented riders from taking positions as stable jockeys to give them the opportunity to ride smart horses they would not otherwise have the chance to?

The new plan also allows someone who doesn’t want to move out of medium level, ever, to stay there forever — they will just have to compete in the gold section, against grand prix riders. Which is useful if the thought of flying changes sends him apoplectic.

No more competing without competing

BD member Lucy Englezos enjoys competing her horse in training sections at present, allowing her the luxury of collecting sheets with which to qualify for Petplan area festivals without earning points that would push her into the next level of competition. Under the new plans there will be no more training sections, meaning Lucy would have to compete in the bronze section (earning points) if she wanted to go to the area festivals. Or go HC if she doesn’t want points. Hear what she has to say about this below:

On the plus side, Lucy could stay in the bronze section until she’d accumulated a number of points, a number which is still to be decided. Here’s where you can have an input, as BD are undecided on the figures and are open to suggestions.

The next horse

Another benefit to the new scheme is that those who compete their first horse up to advanced medium, for example, will be able to start again from the beginning with a new horse riding in a section where they will not compete against experienced combinations — something that suits Angela Westgarth, who is riding at medium restricted but plans to start a young horse at prelim. You can hear Angela’s view here:

You can’t win ‘em all

Not everyone at the BD members’ meeting on 10 April was glowing about the new proposals. You’ll never please everyone ey. What about the young rider on the grand prix schoolmaster competing at elementary, for example — should she be protected due to her inexperience?

In no other sport would you compete against Olympians at your local show. But isn’t that one of the many reasons horse sports rock? As BD’s sports operations manager Paul Graham asked the meeting: “What is the meaning of ‘competition’?”

Do members really want to be so mollycoddled they never have to come across a serious challenge? Does everyone just want a rug?

“Yes!” came the majority response, suggesting BD would be better off offering all new members a thermatex than going to all this trouble to try and create a structure to suit all. Which is a tad depressing.

The other big gripe was that prize money wouldn’t be split between sections but given to the overall winner.

Which begs the question: “Seriously, you’re in this sport for the money?”