A beginners guide to affiliated dressage - By Autumn Palmer Rosser

With Winter coming round the corner I thought I would give a brief overview of how you can get involved with British Dressage and how easy and simple it is! Winter is a great time to have a go at some dressage. Whether it is to practise for next year’s eventing season, getting your horse out and about and used to different venues, or you want to be competitive and move up the levels.

Firstly for anyone thinking about British Dressage who has never done it before, and has probably the same worries I did when I started only a few months ago:

  • Am I good enough to affiliate? – The answer is yes! As long as you are confident and have a good partnership with your horse, just going out and having a go is what it is all about!

  • Do I have to learn the tests? – Again, Yes! You can have a reader at any level apart from at Area and Regional competition but it helps to learn your test even if you are going to have a reader so that you can concentrate on you & your horse and not worry about where to go next! I always have a reader but also always run through my tests beforehand.

  • What does Bronze, Silver and Gold mean? – This is quite a long answer so for full details have a look on the online rule book. Basically each of these sections are used at each level (Prelim, Novice, Ele etc) and according to you and your horses experience would dictate which section you will enter. For example my first few entries were into the Prelim Bronze section as we had very little experience in Dressage but you can gain points to qualify for the Area festivals in the Bronze section. The Silver section is designed for those combinations that have achieved more ability at a level and have demonstrated that they are no longer a beginner at that level. It also allows you to gain points to qualify for Regional and Area competitions. And Gold sections are for riders who have gained experience at higher levels and are riding a horse with less experience, or for combinations who have demonstrated that they are competent at a level.

  • Is it expensive? – You can join you and your horse for free as associate members this will mean you can only compete at Prelim and would be automatically entered into the Gold section. But this is a good starting point to see if dressage is for you. They also offer a six month trial which is £52 and £47 for the horse. But they also offer a Winter registrations from Oct-March which is a great way to have a go at a reduced cost of £47 for the horse and £47 for you. A full year costs £82 for you and £77 for the horse. A typical test at a local affiliated venue can be between £18-£22 but at area or regional competitions this can be up to £35. Although it is more expensive than unaffiliated dressage there are a lot of benefits such as the competitions themselves are run very efficiently, hardly any waiting around for results usually, prize money, a record of you & your horses points, a glossy magazine quarterly with lots of tips & tricks and great articles and a really helpful team at BD available to answer any questions you may have.

  • Will I get any points? And how do they work? – You gain points starting from Prelim upwards but must score a minimum of 60%. Then points are awarded to horse and rider according to the percentage they score.


  • How should I prepare for my first show? – Get your entries in and make sure you have stated the correct section on your entry form, most venues you can enter online now so it is really easy. Learn your tests, practice certain movements rather than just going over and over the test as some horses can start to anticipate the movements. Get your horse looking his/her best you want to show them off after all! The HAAS black pack never fails to get my boy gleaming on show day. Get there nice and early so you have plenty of time to find your bearings, get your horse settled and warm up. Enjoy yourself, relax and just give it a go! Just remember everyone’s goals and achievements are personal to them so never compare yourself to other competitors just concentrate on you and your horses personal achievements, as this keeps you focused on your own goals.
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