Dressage riders and spectators have called for classes to be extended up to grand prix at the Petplan Equine Area Festival finals.

This follows the success of the inaugural inter I class at this year’s dressage finals’ (Wednesday 15-Sunday 19 April) at Hartpury Arena, Gloucestershire.

The new class was well received by competitors and many said they would welcome the addition of more advanced classes.

“It’s a good place to introduce horses to that higher level and it would be really nice for spectators too,” said rider Cara Shardlow.

Advanced medium open winner Hannah Jannaway added: “I think it would be interesting. It would attract more top riders to come along.”

Astrid Bolton, who produces young horses, thought the outdoor arena would be a more inviting introduction to the highest level of competition.

“There are a lot of horses that could do a grand prix that wouldn’t want to go inside,” she said. “With young horses you don’t want to blow their minds — it can be electric indoors.”

Spectator Irene Leckie added: “The Petplans are a great opportunity for people to actually experience what it’s like at a national championships when they would may be a bit intimidated competing at bigger shows.

“I think it would be a great competition to run alongside and a lot of people would use it as a stepping stone — it lets them put their toe in the water.”

Jason Brautigam, BD Chief Executive said: “This is a point we’ve discussed internally as part of our championship strategy review.  With the new competition structure launched at the end of this year, we want to allow this to bed down for at least 12 months before making any further changes.  However, should there be a demand for higher level classes at the Area Festivals we would of course assess whether this is something we can add to the Winter Championships at a later date.

“Just as importantly, we want to ensure that grass-roots riders have the opportunity to compete in championships all year round, so part of our review includes evaluating whether we can introduce a summer equivalent for the Area Festivals from 2017.  We’re always happy to receive feedback from our members on these suggestions.”