Potential dressage horse classes were introduced to Britain just over 10 years ago.
There are now two competitions, the Prevac Pro, which is for four- and five-year-olds and is judged on a show class format, and the Shearwater, for five- and six-year-olds and judged with a dressage test.
The shows are an important occasion for breed associations and breeders to advertise their products.
The first competition in Britain, sponsored until 1996 by Magnolia Holdings, and now by Prevac Pro, was the brainchild of rider and trainer David Hunt.
Judges assess paces and rideability.
David says: “The aim was to give people an understanding of what a dressage horse was. People were beginning to get horses from abroad and they needed guidelines as to the type to buy.”
International judge Stephen Clarke has presided over many young horse classes abroad, including the first world breeding championships at Verden in 1997.
“The classes are vital in the development of our sport. Before the ‘Magnolia’ was introduced, the majority of ‘hopeful dressage riders’ were often trying to train horses with unsuitable conformation, movement and sometimes also temperament.”
Peter Storr was last year’s Prevac Pro champion with the German-bred stallion, Wild Dancer, and is also a past winner of the five-year-old section on his international performer, Gambrinus.
He says: “In the Prevac Pro, a green horse can still show off its ability – a talented horse will win.
The Shearwater is more difficult, as production does count.
We have a lot of good riders now who know how to produce a horse and show it off at its best.
“These are professional classes – they are the only way for top riders, who are not allowed to contest novice and elementary championships, to compete young horses in a show environment.”
As the classes have developed, the scoring system has changed.
- Originally, marks were given for individual paces and temperament.
- The Prevac Pro is now judged on opinion.
- In the Shearwater, like the world breeding class, a mark out of 10 is given as an overall score.
David Hunt says: “Originally, horses with one good pace, such as a big trot, were the winners. We had to recognise that a top horse needs four different gears.
“And, while temperament is important, a potential dressage horse needs to be sharp and judges should allow for this.”
In Europe, a markand verbal assessment is given immediately after the horse finishes a test. This system helps riders and spectators to comprehend the final result.