Ten days ago I published a post, which like this one is Free to View, on both Out and About and on Facebook. It was entitled, “We need re-regionalised dressage competitions and viable venues”. It explains why over the past 20 years so-called Regional competitions have become de facto semi-finals and what this means for local sport. If you haven’t done so, please read it and make your opinions known, for or against these ideas, by clicking to and completing Out and About’s survey Questionnaire. You will also find a link to the original post.

The hammer blow of losing fortnightly shows at Hickstead, the South East’s one and only international showcase venue, highlighted the problem that venues have in making dressage pay its way.

Coombelands, Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 1BQ, which has the capacity to run two dressage competition arenas, featured top and here, is accessed via the A29 a few miles south of Billingshurst.
It will be hanging a welcome on the gate for BD competitions later this year.

We need a truly regionaI championship structure
We would all benefit from having a strong local dressage community. And that requires a vibrant local dressage competition scene that not only supports developing riders but also provides a showcase for the best talent that the region has and is producing. Venues need the support of both, too. The case for a truly Regional championship structure that supports local venues is not diminished but enhanced by the very good news that Coombelands, will be running affiliated dressage in 2021. We want Coombelands, arenas pictured top, to continue to value BD. We hope that the Hickstead Showground proprietors will want to run more shows than the single Premier League one they have scheduled this year.

No two Regions face the same problems. The South East is losing valuable rider/trainer talent and equestrian facilities due to high property prices and pressure from housebuilding. But it already has a large population and is a growing leisure market. We have the power!

The South East is losing talent and valuable training resources. Much missed:
Mark Ruddock List 1 judge and UKCC trainer has relocated to Ireland.
Paul Hayler, BD training director, and List 1, who grew up in Kent, and originally based Team Hayler Dressage in Essex, is now based in North Yorkshire.
And Debby Lush, List 1 judge, BHS and a TTT-trained trainer is now based in Scotland

BD CEO Jason Brautigam emailed members his “BD end of year update” on 18 December. Under the heading, “A chance to build back better” he explained that in response to BD Trading Ltd’s loss of earnings due to Covid, it was cutting costs (jobs). There will be six regions instead of eight and just four New Development Officers will do the jobs formerly undertaken by seven RDOs, like our own Sharon Walker. For now, at least, Sharon will job-share responsibility for amalgamated South and East territories with Katharine Perry, formerly Eastern Region RDO.

This does not mean for the purpose of competition that Regions need to be enlarged. We will still need as many, if not more, defined regions for Regional Championship competition purposes in certain parts of the country to accommodate the number of qualified riders.

Don’t just moan — make your membership work for you!
Members — riders, young professionals, judges, trainers — frequently moan about lack of support from BD or aspects of its operations that they dislike and refuse to engage with. They say they feel powerless to change BD policies. “We tell BD, but BD ignores us”. Many of these people therefore opt out of BD in favour of BHS and unaffiliated competition, especially those operating on slimmer budgets. We were losing members even before Covid struck.

It is difficult on a dark January day, with the prospect of Spring competitions being further blighted by the Covid lockdown, to see this time as “A chance to build back a better BD” — one that operates in the interests of its mainstream membership. But there is no better time to think about this issue and be aware that it takes a long time to change mindsets and even longer to bring about change in bureaucracies.

So again, I say, please show your support for Regional dressage by completing the Questionnaire. The anonymity of views expressed will be respected unless you are happy to be associated with them publicly.

Celia Cadwallader
Out and About Dressage Ltd
(and BD member for the past 20-plus years)

13 January 2021