So you're thinking of trying affiliated dressage?
The decision to 'go affiliated' can seem like a big one - but it needn't be.
If you are already competing unaffiliated, you will have a good idea what dressage is all about and probably be riding the same tests as you will ride affiliated.
Going affiliated simply gives you access to thousands of competition days that carry a guarantee of what you can expect from the organisers, judges and venue. In addition, it opens up the door to a clear competition and training structure that is able to take you just as high as you want to go. From grass roots to the next Olympics, going affiliated gives you the chance to achieve your goals.
Read about what going affiliated is like in the REAL LIFE story of one rider at the bottom of this page...
What’s the difference between unaffiliated and affiliated dressage?
Unaffiliated dressage competitions can be run by anyone while affiliated dressage competitions must be run following the guidelines set down by British Dressage, the governing body of the sport.
This means that affiliated competitions must be judged by trained judges and be of a certain standard - that's the arenas, parking, medical and safety provisions, general timekeeping and running of the event, not the level of rider allowed to compete.
Riders of all levels are welcome at affiliated events and there is a range of classes to choose from, with a clear structure for progression if you are keen to rise up the ranks.
Can I get closer to affiliated dressage without committing any money just yet?
Yes - become a British Dressage Associate Member. This new web-based membership package is free and will give you the chance to get in touch with other dressage enthusiasts via the Members' Forum, as well as allowing you access to dressage videos and the British Dressage magazine on-line. For the full details of the benefits and how to sign up, click here.
What are the benefits of competing in affiliated dressage?
Because the affiliated competitions are governed by British Dressage, you can be assured they will be of a consistent and guaranteed standard. There’s nothing worse than having paid your entry fee and spent all that time and effort preparing for a competition, only to be disappointed or frustrated because of the facilities or the way it is run.
British Dressage affiliated competitions take place only at approved venues – as well as ensuring that the arenas are of the right size, with a reasonable surface and room for warm-up, they also make sure the parking is sufficient and on suitable ground. Affiliated venues should also be readily accessible and provide toilet facilities and some catering.
In addition, affiliated competitions should all be judged consistently as they are required to use British Dressage judges who have each undergone a rigorous training and assessment programme.
But should something go wrong, with an affiliated competition you will have some comeback – there are people and procedures in place to deal with any problem you may have had and to try and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
In addition to your personal benefits, choosing to go affiliated also benefits the sport of dressage itself. British Dressage underpins the sport by providing the structure for competition and progression right from beginners to Olympic level. It also develops the dressage tests and ensures quality dressage training is available to all. By choosing to go affiliated, you are supporting dressage as a whole.
Isn’t affiliated dressage harder than unaffiliated?
No. If you have been riding dressage tests at unaffiliated shows, the tests will still be the same at the affiliated events. The difference is the guarantee of consistency in how your tests are judged, the facilities you can expect at events and the support available to you.
If you are just starting out in dressage, try an Introductory or Preliminary level test first. In Introductory tests all movements are ridden in walk or trot. Preliminary Tests will include canter, but are straightforward using common schooling movements and exercises such as transitions and changes of rein.
How do I ‘go affiliated’?
To ride in affiliated dressage competitions you need to become a member of British Dressage (BD) and also register your horse. There are several different types of membership available but Full Membership which entitles you to compete for 12 months costs £76. You can join online or fill out the Membership form and pop it in the post. For help, contact Michelle Garland on Tel: 0247 698 832.
Having become a member you will be entitled to ride in affiliated classes and choose from 2,000 competition days each year. These are advertised on the British Dressage website and in British Dressage magazine which you will receive every two months. You will also be able to access all the training clinics, demonstrations and camps run by British Dressage and receive free personal accident and personal liability insurance cover as well as a host of other benefits.
Having become a member you can then register your horse – this costs £66. Do this by filling out the Horse Registration form or for help contact Stacey Webb and Rachel Smith 02476 698836.
BD has also joined forces with British Eventing, British Riding Clubs and the Pony Club to offer discounted dressage membership packages tailor made to help get you started and save you money.
Can I try an affiliated competition before deciding to ‘go affiliated’ properly?
Yes. Anyone is welcome to enter the Open section of Preliminary classes held at affiliated competitions. Preliminary classes offer a good starting level of test and you can then try an affiliated competition for yourself.
Alternatively, you can buy a Class Ticket. These cost £7 and entitle you to enter one affiliated class, at any level, even though you and your horse are not a British Dressage registered. When you compete on a Class Ticket you will be entitled to win rosettes and prize money but you will not gain British Dressage points.
I want to improve my dressage but I’m not ready to compete – what can ‘going affiliated’ offer me?
If you don’t feel ready to compete yet BD Training Membership (non-competing) gives access to a host of benefits that can help you take the first steps towards affiliated competition and get involved. This allows you to access all the British Dressage training clinics, demonstrations and camps. You would also benefit from the guidance and support of your local BD team, who can also introduce you to other members in your area. Non-competing membership costs £34 for 12 months. You also fill out the Membership form and pop it in the post. For help, contact Michelle Garland on Tel: 0247 698 836.
REAL LIFE: Team success for Sam after going affiliated
When Sam Gawn (36) from Coventry, bought five-year-old 16hh Irish-type Harry, their relationship didn’t get off to a promising start. Harry had a habit of bolting and soon planted Sam in a fence, resulting in a broken arm.
Once recovered and with some new ground rules in place, Harry started to show a talent for dressage. Sam spent the season taking him to unaffiliated jumping and Prelim dressage competitions. With a few outings under their belts, they found they were doing quite well. “My trainer then suggested I should go affiliated as Harry was showing promise,” explains Sam. “I was over the moon that she thought we would be good enough.”
Sam joined British Dressage in March 2010 and was soon heading for her first affiliated competition. “I had the misconception that it would be full of people with loads of money and that I wouldn’t be good enough. I was so nervous that morning I was sick!” But once she arrived she was pleasantly surprised. “The event was smaller than I expected and there was a real mix of people. It wasn’t as huge a step up as I thought it was going to be and we were placed third.”
Since then Sam has competed affiliated regularly and finds she takes the judge’s comments much more seriously. “I am very self-critical and when I got praise from unaffiliated judges I would doubt them – knowing affiliated events always use listed judges has helped me really take on board what they say.”
With further encouragement from their trainer, Sam and Harry have since represented the Central Region in the Senior Inter Regionals and have been selected for the Senior Home International. “I never had the chance to do team things before and I certainly never expected to be selected. It’s been brilliant,” says Sam. “I have got to know other riders too and we now meet up at events.
“I never thought I would be affiliated now and I have learned and done so much – I thoroughly recommend it.”