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The New Year marks British Dressage’s (BD) 20th anniversary, an exciting milestone. I’ve only been on the journey for four of those years, but have had the pleasure to work alongside many who have been there every step of the way since the decision was made to separate from the British Horse Society in 1998.

So, in 20 years what have we achieved? The sport is stronger than ever. In 2017, I was proud to lead a team that broke a number of records. We welcomed our 17,000th paying member, horse registrations topped 20,000 for the first time, over 250,000 tests were ridden, our turnover reached an all-time high and we’re forecasting another six-figure surplus.

But what does that mean to the average member? First and foremost, it means that more people than ever before are enjoying dressage. It also means that our aim to provide a sport with opportunities for everyone continues to flourish. As examples, we have launched a new championship for bronze riders, a summer music championship is now a reality, and we will also have a silver FEI championship in 2018.

Alongside this, our associated championships and Quest competitions have provided a new dressage goal to more than 3,000 club members.

Vitally, it means that we now have healthy reserves which will protect the sport if an unforeseen crisis strikes. It’s taken nearly two decades to reach a “safe” level of over £1m but, significantly, we have managed to double our reserves in the past four years.

This has enabled us to invest £250,000 in a three-phase IT project, with the first stage, the online schedules, launched last year. Part two will be the results portal, which will improve qualification monitoring.

Then we’ll move to the membership database, which we’re aiming to complete later in 2018. The final piece of the jigsaw will be a modern, fit-for-purpose website.

At our final board meeting in 2017, plans were approved for a scheme that will provide additional partnership support for our major CDI shows, which are so crucial to help our riders gain experience against the best on the international stage.

Be a part of it

The revitalised BD Youth programme is making great progress, with new initiatives rolled out this year, including the launch of our foundation and national academies.

Another area of focus in 2018 will be our para activity. We’re world leaders in this sector but to maintain that, we need to evolve continually. So, we need to ensure our competition pathways provide opportunities for all.

Your passion for dressage may be as a competitor, a trainer or a judge, but the best way to influence policy and decisions is to be a part of the team behind the sport. So, next time you see a volunteer role advertised at regional, technical committee or board level, why not put your name forward?

Twenty years ago few would have been bold enough to predict we’d have a double Olympic gold medallist, Britain would win medals at senior level for seven years running or that over a quarter of a million tests would be ridden in one year, but this is the reality.

There are so many reasons to be optimistic about the future as we celebrate our 20th anniversary, and working collectively we can ensure that the next 20 years will bring further landmark accomplishments and even greater levels of success.

Ref Horse & Hound; 11 January 2018