‘Exciting changes ahead’: British Dressage announces new tests for 2024

  • New dressage tests are to be introduced from next July at all levels, British Dressage (BD) has confirmed, to provide “greater focus on correct training of horses and rider development”.

    Chief executive Jason Brautigam announced the change at the BD AGM on 18 October, confirming that there had been a “consolidation” of the number of tests, after a major internal review, and that there will be a maximum of six at each level.

    “The reason for doing this is that we wanted to have clear progression, and a progressive step at each level linked to the scales of training, providing a greater focus on the correct training of horses and rider development,” Mr Brautigam said, adding that there has also been a review to ensure that movements are appropriately allocated to each level.

    “In some instances, we will be removing some of the outdated terminology and we will also be looking at a reduction of the coefficient marks used for the paces, to level the playing field.”

    There are currently three intro tests, 10 at preliminary and novice level, 11 at elementary, seven at medium and advanced medium and three advanced tests. The number of intro tests will be capped at four.

    The new dressage tests will be free to download for a six-month period from December to ensure a smooth transition for members.

    “The health of the sport is still looking very good”

    BD finance director Caroline Godfrey said it had been another strong financial year; BD made a surplus of almost £159,000.

    “This was much better than expected, with rising membership and horse registration numbers leading to increased income which counteracted our budgeted deficit,” she said.

    Thanks to those increased registrations, the organisation’s total income increased from £4.18m to £4.83m in 2022.

    Derek Pullem was elected as sports operations director, with 62% of the vote.

    In his election statement, he said he will “simplify the eligibility rules as much as possible”, and “rebalance the competition structure so members are encouraged to compete at their highest level possible, but not be pushed too early into a higher section, particularly for their second or following horses.”

    “It’s not a drastic change I’m talking about. It’s recognising how the sport has moved on and trying to accommodate all the people in a more flexible and better way,” he told H&H in August.

    Mr Brautigam also provided a review of a 2022 competitor survey. The results show that overall satisfaction for BD increased from 7.1 in 2019 to 7.5. Ratings for the BD head office team also improved from 7.8 to 8.5, “which underlines the quality of the team we have in place at BD HQ” Mr Brautigam said.

    The issues of horse welfare, and dressage’s social licence to operate, were also returned to throughout the evening by Mr Brautigam.

    “We are looking at a cross-sector initiative with the British Horseracing Authority and British Equestrian to support equine welfare strategies and our action plan will be launched later this year,” he said.

    “We’re investing in a joint research project with World Horse Welfare and our other sector partners to fully understand public opinions and attitudes towards horse sport so we can really inform our work in this vitally important area.

    “There will be updates to our judge, steward, and coach education modules and our continuing professional development activity to ensure that officials uphold the highest standards of horse welfare.”

    BD will launch a series of member education articles that will support a new charter for the horse, which aims to promote better understanding and awareness of horse care in the “other 23 hours outside competing.”

    Other news included the introduction of additional minimum eligibility requirements for advanced levels and above and that the associated championships will now move to one central venue in 2024.

    Attendees were told to expect more information on all rule changes, including the new dressage tests, to be released with the members’ handbook on 1 December.

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