Anna Ross: ‘Is there a way to re-vamp the championship format?’ [H&H VIP]

  • At home and abroad, the sport is looking at itself. The FEI sports forum is assessing international sport in terms of remaining an Olympic discipline, and British Dressage (BD) is re-structuring its rules entirely.

    For the FEI, there’s a problem of accessibility and appealing to a wider audience.

    More headset commentary at shows would give the audience an opportunity to “know” the riders, thus helping increase accessibility.

    More TV commentary would a great idea — but could there be a “switch off” option, or should we just be grateful for any coverage?

    There must be more scope for individuality in the rules for dress, so our teams are identifiable. We Brits were ahead of our time with our red collars.

    More lifestyle stories is a good idea as there is huge variety in riders’ backgrounds to interest both the inspirational and aspirational, and hopefully dispel the myth that dressage riders are all rich and spend their days riding a grand prix and sipping champagne to re-hydrate.

    Re-vamping the championship format to include a pas de deux as the final wouldn’t work as it would become more about choreography, co-ordination and music than dressage, and as a veteran of many (successful) pas de deux, I can safely say they do not encourage the Olympic spirit between partners!

    There’s another idea about riders swapping horses for the final. It would be interesting, but the beauty of dressage is the unique relationship between a horse and rider, and the Olympics should be a test of that, not a test of the riders’ versatility. Also, it would be very hard on the horses to run through the grand prix several times.

    However, both these ideas would be great entertainment pieces for the breaks, and increase interest in the sport.

    The new competition structure for BD is not yet finished, but Area Festivals to grand prix is a great idea and more clarity as to whom each championship is aimed for would help riders decide which is the right class for them.

    I’ve met some individuals who could have used the loopholes in open and restricted rules as their specialist subjects on Mastermind, so I think a re-vamp is a jolly good idea.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 21 May 2015