Which organisation: British Dressage (BD) governs affiliated dressage competition.

How much it costs: £90 for full membership, £80 for horse registration.

Membership package: Third party liability insurance and personal accident insurance, British Dressage magazine six times a year, rule book, free online access to all competition records and special discounts on tickets for BD events.

Why affiliate?: “Our judges have gone through an accredited training system so you can be sure of a consistent level of judging,” says Jo Bagnall of British Dressage. “Anyone can compete in affiliated dressage and in recent years we have provided more opportunities for preliminary and novice riders to compete and go to championships.”

What to expect: Unaffiliated classes are generally run under BD rules but you often won’t get a BD accredited judge, so the marking might not be as consistent. As a BD member, you’ll still be able to compete in unaffiliated competition, although you won’t be able to win points in these classes.

Setting your sights:Both winter and summer seasons end in championships, with opportunities to qualify at all levels. Most classes are geared towards championships. Usually, riders have to win two classes, one of which must be a qualifying class, then ride at a regional or semi-final level.

To encourage less experienced riders, championship-style shows known as Area Festivals have been introduced, which are open to anyone with a score of 57% or above in preliminary to medium tests. If you come in the first three at an Area Festival you go forward to the Area Festival Finals.

Balloting: If a class is over-subscribed and you are balloted out, you may receive a priority sticker to attach to your entry form for the next competition you enter.

Class tickets: Non-members can buy up to six class tickets a year, at £8 each. You can win prize money, but can’t gain points.

Guide to classes

Preliminary: Simple tests including basic shapes in walk, trot and canter

Novice: Lengthened strides in trot and canter and more demanding shapes such as half 10m circles (trot) and half 15m circles (canter)

Elementary: Lateral work, medium trot, counter canter and rein back

Medium: Counter, collected and extended canter plus simple change, half pass, rein back and walk pirouettes

Advanced medium: All the above plus flying change in canter

No points are awarded in preliminary classes so you can compete at this introductory level for as long as you want without having to move up.

At novice level and above, points are awarded depending on your percentage mark. Marks of 60% and above earn one point, up to the top level of seven points for 67% and above. To create a more level playing field, classes are split into gold, silver and bronze sections, which depend on the number of points a rider has won in the past.

Find out more: Contact British Dressage (tel: 02476 698830) or visit: www.britishdressage.co.uk