Alice Oppenheimer: Let’s find solutions not heap abuse *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I was fortunate enough to be asked to be a guinea pig for our British Dressage (BD) national convention this year with my gorgeous five-year-old Headmore Bella Ruby.

    It was a superb convention with two top German trainers, Michael Klimke and Ulf Möller. I learnt a tremendous amount and thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend.

    During the convention, BD held a members’ meeting; I’ve been to a few of these in my time and this was by far the busiest due to recent social media furore.

    First, I’d like to commend the BD board on their thorough and professional approach — it must have been like walking into the lions’ den. As a member, I felt very reassured that they were able to answer most questions confidently and with solid facts. There was the odd question left unanswered and I accept and understand the reasons for this; we have to respect certain matters cannot be shared publicly.

    One of the main areas of concern was lack of communication between BD and its members. This issue was acknowledged by the board and they are working on ways to rectify this.

    We need to try to support them where possible — I was saddened to hear of members being abusive towards BD staff on the forum and on the phone. Nobody is denying that there are flaws in the system, but what we must do is try to find solutions to these problems rather than just pointing out the negatives in the situation.

    An idea to forge the missing link

    One idea that has been suggested is the possibility of having a “rider rep” on the board. This person would be a current competing member of BD, who, preferably, has experience of competing and training at all levels. This could forge the missing link between BD members and the board as it would give all members a specific person to go to with any queries or problems. The rep could then take these forward to the board, so members could be sure that any worries are dealt with.

    British Eventing has a similar idea of a rider rep system, whereby they have a rider present at all events whom any rider can go to with their concerns. Obviously, having a rider at every show would not be possible for BD, but having an initial point of contact, specifically for rider queries, would go some way towards bridging the gap.

    Another issue that arose was that, within the current rules, there is nothing to stop someone who has ridden at local level grand prix competing in the silver sections at lower levels. Due to the amount I learnt trotting down the centre line in my first grand prix, I feel that once you’ve ridden at big tour, you should be a gold rider at all levels.

    It’s not fair to expect people stepping up a level to compete against someone with that experience. This was well received at the meeting.

    BD is listening and open to any positive suggestions via email through its feedback system. I am passionate about the sport and look forward to watching the organisation continue to flourish in the future. Let’s look forward to a merry Christmas and happy New Year — and a successful and positive 2018.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 14 December 2017