Radical new competition system proposed for British Dressage

First day dressage leaders Carl Hester and Uthopia.
British dressage’s new system aims to simplify the sport. For example, under the old system, Uthopia, ridden here by Carl Hester, is still in elementary points when he is actually a grand prix horse. © Kit Houghton/FEI

British Dressage has released details of its “work in progress” competition structure review, which aims to remove limits and make the sport less elitist and complicated.

In the new proposals, open and restricted sections are replaced by three new sections: gold, silver, and bronze, which enable combinations to move sideways and up, as opposed to only up the ladder.

Bronze will be for those who are new to each level, silver is the middle ground, gold is for horses who’ve achieved more than 150 points at any level but they can stay at this level forever. Group 1 riders will have to ride in gold sections at all levels. This means that riders such as Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin will be able to ride their young horses at novice or prelim, just in the gold section.

British Dressage says this means that combinations who reach their ability ‘ceiling’ will be able to carry on competing at a level comfortable for them.

In bronze and silver sections, there is a 15 point ‘cushion’ to allow combinations to try tests at higher levels. Once 15 points are earned at the next level, the combination will be promoted to the gold section at the current level.

There will be five groups of riders, from those who have not won any points above Novice level, to those who have won points at higher levels.

There are also changes to horse grading. Currently horses are grouped into a level by the number of points they have achieved in total. This gives an inaccurate representation of the horse, a classic example being Uthopia who is still in elementary points when he is actually a grand prix horse. The new structure will take into account a horse and rider’s achievements as a combination with points earned at each individual level as opposed to a cumulative total.

Under the new proposals there would be no requirement to downgrade a horse as horses will be allowed in the Gold section at all levels.

“As 80% is the new 70%, it’s also proposed that the current point’s allocation table is extended to reflect those that achieve the exceptional higher percentages. This will move those horses that are consistently scoring high percentages but compete less frequently on at the same rate as a horse that has lower scores but competes more.”

The proposals are outlined here, and a questionnaire is available here to provide feedback.

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