Jason Brautigam: Riders want a streamlined system *H&H VIP*

Opinion

The countdown to an Olympic year is always exciting and challenging in equal measure, but this year has been particularly busy for British Dressage (BD), as several of our initiatives come to fruition.

We started 2019 with a membership survey to give us some insight into our members’ views and satisfaction levels, as well as provide vital information for our projects and help shape our next five-year strategy.

In total, 23% of members took part, and the data returned has been invaluable. In some respects it confirmed what we already knew, but overall it has provided strong indication of what each of our stakeholder groups feels is most important.

A working party had already been reviewing our championship calendar, but the survey provided further insight. The message was clear: to simplify, streamline and establish greater consistency, as well as offer regular opportunities and choice for riders to compete and progress.

We’ve listened to our members and taken their comments on board: 70% said the competition structure is currently too complex, 60% wanted a more even spread of the calendar and 51% wanted more straightforward rules.

The new format for our Area Festival series aims to deliver just that. A two-season structure will mirror the regional offering, with the same qualification mechanism. This will provide greater consistency.

Offering two championship options for bronze and silver riders in summer and winter will provide opportunities throughout the year. Plus, a new music element in the summer series means we can consolidate the number of championships, by not holding a separate Summer Music Festival.

‘Best in the world’

Another project we’ve been working on this year has been developing a new approach to the training and assessment of our judges, also highlighted as a priority in our survey. We’re proud that our judges are some of the best in the world — and it’s a key reason why many riders choose to affiliate. We’ve made significant progress, but now need further development.

A new judging system will be launched in 2020, with a focus on learning and training for skills and knowledge, rather than just passing exams. It will be vocational and practical, but also flexible to suit individual learning styles. We will be rolling out the new system from spring 2020 —judges in the current system will still be able to complete exams next year.

A great deal of hard work and technical expertise has gone into developing a modern and professional system, and we are very encouraged by how positively these proposals have been embraced by our officials. Better training and education for our judges will improve standards, quality and progression all round, so it will be a huge benefit for the sport.

At our AGM next month I’ll be sharing our headline strategy for the next Olympic cycle. We’ve achieved so much over the past five years, but this will launch the next chapter in our journey to deliver a popular, successful and inclusive sport.

As you read this, I’ll be in Rotterdam cheering on Team GBR at the Europeans. With the dressage and para dressage teams already qualified for Tokyo 2020, it provides a chance for both teams — with new riders and young horses — to really make a statement of intent for next year.

Ref Horse & Hound; 22 August 2019