Want to try affiliated dressage? Here’s what you need to know first…

  • Are you interested in trying your hand at affiliated dressage shows this season? If so, don’t miss this useful guide on how to get started in affiliated dressage, which is governed by British Dressage (BD).

    Do I need a flashy warmblood to take part? Horses and ponies of all types and breeds compete successfully in affiliated dressage competitions. Dressage is primarily a test of training, so an accurate, well-ridden test performing the required movements in good balance while showing the horse and rider moving in harmony will earn a good score. BD runs a number of championships designed to cater for specific breeds or types of horses including Arab Horse, British Native Pony, Draught Horse, GB PRE, Lusitano, TGCA, CHAPS, Retraining of Racehorses and Thoroughbred, as well as Veteran Horse and Rider, allow riders to compete against others with similar horses.

    How much does it cost to join BD? £98 for full competing membership, £82 for full horse registration, with a range of other membership options available, including £38 Club rider and £17 Club horse memberships. You then pay entry fees for the classes you wish to ride in on top.

    Can I try BD without paying for a membership? Class tickets cost £10 each and each ticket makes you eligible to enter one affiliated dressage class, for which the standard entry fee will also apply — both you and your horse will need to be registered as BD Community members, which is free, to use your ticket. You can win rosettes, prize money and earn BD points, but scores/points earned on class tickets will not count towards any championships.

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

    Starting out? Try BD Quest: Designed for those starting out on their dressage journey, BD Quest competitions take place at intro, prelim and novice levels. There are both individual (My Quest) and team (Team Quest) competitions available. To take part in Quest competitions horse and rider will need a minimum of BD Club membership.

    Other championship opportunities: Both the winter and summer seasons end in championships, with opportunities to qualify at all levels. Most British Dressage classes are geared towards achieving sufficient qualifying scores to be eligible to compete at championships.

    To encourage grassroots riders looking to move on from BD Quest competitions, there are championship-style shows known as Area Festivals, which are open to anyone with a score of 62% or above in three prelim to elementary tests. If you come in the first 10 at an Area Festival with the sufficient score you go forward to the Area Festival Finals.

    Can I still compete in unaffiliated shows? There are no rules to stop you competing in unaffiliated dressage after joining BD. Unaffiliated classes are generally run under BD rules but you may not get a BD accredited judge, so the marking might not be as consistent.

    Do you have to plait up for affiliated dressage? No, you do not have to plait your horse’s mane or tail to compete in BD classes, although most riders do choose to plait their horse’s mane, unless they are of a breed where it is usual to leave the mane loose, such as native ponies. Clever plaiting can help to enhance your horse’s appearance, by either maximising or reducing the appearance of the topline.

    Guide to affiliated dressage levels

    Introductory: Simple tests including basic shapes in walk and trot

    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 intro classes so you can compete at this level for as long as you want without having to move up.

    You win points when you compete in an affiliated class at prelim level and above and score a minimum of 60%. Points are awarded to the horse/rider according to the percentage they score, 60% and above. For example, if you score 65% in an elementary class, the horse/rider wins three points. 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 – email: office@britishdressage.co.uk, phone: 02476 698830) or visit: www.britishdressage.co.uk

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