Radical structure changes within British Dressage (BD) have been met with nervousness by riders. While many welcome the alterations in theory, some have concerns about the complexity of the new system.

The planned changes, which will come into force on 1 December, mean that open and restricted sections will be replaced by three new sections — gold, silver and bronze.

Bronze will be for those who are new to each level, having earned up to 50 points; silver is the middle ground, for those who have earned up to 150 points; and gold is for combinations who have achieved more than 150 points at any level.

The new system is based on the results of a combination, not the level a rider has achieved in the past. This will allow combinations to stay at a level without being forced to move up.

However, riders have told H&H they feel the new structure is confusing.

“It needs to be easy and straightforward, but it is technical and difficult to understand,” said dressage judge and trainer Sally Hardwick.

“The idea is a good one, but you have to keep a close eye on your scores and BD need to make sure they keep up to date.

“I want to embrace it and support it, but it is complicated.”

Carl Hester echoed Mrs Hardwick’s concerns over the new structure, describing it as “very complicated” in his H&H column.

“Is there anyone out there who could unravel and explain it?” he wrote. “So far I and everyone else I’ve spoken to is confused.com”

However, fellow H&H columnist Pammy Hutton praised the changes for allowing more advanced horses to compete in “open” novice classes.

“It will give riders a chance to learn the ropes, encourage more riders to be competitive and offer some older horses extended careers,” she said.

BD sport manager Paul Graham defended the new format.

“It’s a much fairer route of progression — if you’re good enough to move on, you’ll get the scores/points to move you along, but if you’re happy at a level, gold allows you to stay,” he said.

“Naturally when someone has to learn something new it will be daunting and initially difficult to digest.

Good communication is the key to the roll out and we will be contacting all members in due course. Behind the scenes, we’re working on our IT systems to be fully compliant with the new structure and help members much more.”

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BD plans to publish a comprehensive article in issue six of their members’ magazine, out mid-August, detailing the final structure. An online version will be released around the same time.

“There are a few revisions from the document released to members on 16 April,” added Mr Graham.

“These are based on feedback from members through the consultation period, which will be released in the final version.

“We’re working to get the members’ handbook online slightly earlier than usual, to give members as much time as possible to digest the changes.”

Ref: H&H 13 July, 2015