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The new system has been up and running for a few months now and the consensus seems to be that the silver section needs tweaking as it’s huge. In principle I like the new system, but it relies on a certain amount of self-regulation for it to work well.

One of the hot topics is that stable jockeys — usually young professionals, some with experience at much higher levels and competing multiple horses — can opt to ride in the silver section from novice upwards.

I don’t think this was the object of the rule. The aim was more to allow a second-time-rounder who was not a top-end rider the chance to stay “protected” from the professionals. 

However, the section you ride in reflects both your own level and how you wish to be perceived by others. So perhaps a shift in thinking is needed to promote pride in young professionals to ride at gold.

The golden path

All those starting out, young professionals included, should have the chance to gain championship experience, but once they have had some top placings it’s time to go for gold.

It should be seen as a rite of passage that is encouraged and celebrated. 

It’s human nature that some riders will want to compete at the lowest possible level they can and take pride in winning there, and some will aim at the highest level and accept they may not always win but take pride in competing at the level.

Of course it is not always the stable jockey’s choice. They have owners and employers who have ambitions and views, and the riders need to keep their jobs. But fortune will eventually favour the bold, as top sport is not for the faint-hearted. 

I’ve recently had this conversation with my own super stable jockey Beth Bainbridge and we have decided she will compete in the gold section from novice to advanced medium, despite the rules that permit her to compete at silver.

She has much less experience at prix st georges (PSG), but will aim for regionals in gold too.

Anyone wanting to be considered as being at the top end (or moving towards it) of the sport should put themselves in this section with the big boys.

A leaf out of the US book

It’s a shame though that the titles and prizes depend on who you are riding against rather than your personal achievements. Most riders want to have something to aim for and some feel they don’t have that if the professionals are dominating the silver sections.

The system in the USA, where riders earn their bronze, silver and gold medallions by gaining scores at the higher levels is excellent and could also be adopted by British Dressage.

The medallions are worn on riders’ jackets in recognition of achievement and high scores. I have many clients who would enjoy working towards these awards, which could be presented annually at the national championships.

I suggest the bronze medallion would be for riders who have gained 65% five times at advanced. Silver would be for those who have gained it at PSG or inter I, and gold for those who achieve it at grand prix.

Renaming the Area Festival final the Area Amateur championships is an excellent idea, as it defines the spirit of the classes.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 28 April 2016