Dressage riders have been expressing their frustration after entries for Somerford Park’s Premier League show (22-24 May) shut days before the closing date.
The show is planning to run as an international in 2016, and this year demand for starting places has rocketed.
Unlike in British Eventing, British Dressage (BD) has no real formal balloting system.
“We have over 600 competitors, and when we hit in excess of 13 hours of dressage on the first two days, we just had to close the classes,” show organiser Jo Graham told H&H.
“I know some people are jumping up and down, but entries opened six weeks ago, and we shut them two days before BD’s closing date.”
Jo is partly a victim of her own success, having promoted this year’s show — the last before it turns into an international next year — so effectively.
The situation has reinvigorated calls for BD to look at the rules surrounding over-subscribed shows.
“This issue is on the agenda for the rules meeting on 23 June,” said Paul Graham.
“It’s a negative situation, but a positive for the sport as there is massive demand for competition, so dressage is in a healthy state.
“But we need to formalise the ballot procedure so riders know where they stand.”
New Zealand rider Shiwon Green was stung when her entries were rejected, particularly as her national federation requires scores from high profile shows in order for her to be nominated for CDIs.
“I needed to get scores on the board in the middle tour to be nominated for Hickstead and on my young horse for my federation to put me forward for Verden [world young horse championships],” she said. “But luckily they understand the situation and have agreed to nominate me for Hickstead anyway.”
The Thurman-Bakers were also keen to compete at Somerford, after a slightly disappointing run at Addington (8-10 May).
“I went online on the Saturday [9 May] to enter,” Diane Thurman-Baker told H&H.
“Event though entries didn’t close until the Tuesday [12 May], it said the classes were full.
“I assumed there’d be 20 juniors or so, but when the times went up, there were only nine it and I was annoyed; that’s really not fair as these shows are the only place some of the juniors can ride in front of selectors.
“The medium and advanced medium class competitors can ride five of those elsewhere in a week — I don’t think they should run those lower level classes if numbers are tight.”
David Pincus’ daughter Lucy (pictured) missed out on a place in the young riders class.
David said: “BD has the duty to offer all members equal opportunities to qualify for championships, team selections etc. The problem of oversubscribed classes is not new and the need to have a correct, fair, transparent, morally and legally acceptable mechanism to deal with such a situation is well overdue.”
One possible option under discussion is to bring the closing date for Premier Leagues and High Profile shows forward to three weeks out — as will be the case with the highly popular Area Festivals this year — an option welcomed by Jo Graham.
“This show has got bigger than anyone imagined,” she said. “A closing date just 10 days before the show makes it logistically almost impossible. Our closing date has to change for next year.”
Jo, who runs the show with a team of 200 volunteers, added: “We’re taking this show to a new level and hoping to attract the public by running things alongside the dressage, like perhaps a classic car show to keep the husbands entertained next year.
“We’re trying to build it into something that hasn’t been done over here, and we need to do it now while we’re at the top of the sport, otherwise we never will.”