Are you a lower level dressage rider with lots of cash, plenty of time and an insatiable appetite for blue ribbons? Waste not one moment! Load up the rig, wrap up your horses’ legs, and head for the Global Dressage Festival, a virtual pot of gold for riders who are sick and tired of measuring themselves against others and just want to win a class against themselves for once, fair and square! We can’t absolutely promise you’ll be the only one in your First Level Test 2 or Training Level Test 3, but if recent shows are any indication, there’s a darned good chance you will be guaranteed the win. Come on! You’ve earned it, what with all that daily color coordinating of saddle pad to polo shirt, those endless circles in that infernal rectangle of sand, and countless sleepless nights spent obsessing about why your horse does leg yield better to the left than to the right. Get out there and treat yourself to some easy victories under Florida’s sunny skies.
False advertising, you say? An exaggeration? Not really. I did the arithmetic with my pen – the crossing of fifth lines over little ranks of fours and then counting them all up: five, ten, fifteen twenty… The Global Dressage Festival last weekend offered a total of 111 classes, from Training Level to Grand Prix. A whopping 50 classes (that’s 45%) had just a single entry. Another 24 had two riders vying for that holy grail of Dressage, the winning score, while just 12 classes had three entries. Only 25 classes (that’s 22.5%) had what I documented as ‘greater than three’. Some of those greater-than classes were actually quite big. The division that is thriving in Welly DQ World is definitely the small tour, especially the PSG. So what gives? I’m sure M&M of ESP would love to know, because the DQs are clearly not following the patterns set by the competitors down the street, where there’s gravy to be had for the organizers in all those dozens of low divisions in the hunters and jumpers. For those whose finer instincts have been honed in the world of the H and the J, Dressage really does seem to be from Mars. Or Venus. Or the moon.
I would hate to be the one to try and solve the problem of diminishing returns in Welly World’s dressage show circuit. It certainly does seem to have reached – perhaps exceeded – the saturation point. One big difference between the DQs and the H/Js is that DQs don’t like to show every week. They kind of like to train sometimes too. Most of the time, in fact. And that can be troublesome if you are a show organizer looking to run a circuit modeled on the other discipline. No sane person should expect any other sane person to do something as stressful as run horse shows and not at least pay the bills at the end of it. Not more than once, anyway.
You would think I, someone so well versed in all things DQ, would have some advice to offer. But I don’t, other than to DQs looking for some easy wins, as per the opening paragraph of today’s post.
The subject of my Low-Down column in issue two of Horse Sport International will be the mileage rule, and how changes to it could be both good and bad for show organizers in the world of H/J. Why am I focusing only on the mileage rule’s impact on the H/Js? Well because it’s abundantly clear that the mileage rule isn’t even relevant for a discipline like dressage, whose shows can’t get the numbers to sustainable levels – with competing shows not even on the same date, but on the weekends before and after. Nope, dressage will never be a repeating loop of successive weeks of showing, at least not in my lifetime. If I were any one of the dressage show organizers in Welly World I’d be swallowing my pride – and maybe just a bit of bile – and trying to get together with my colleagues/competitors to work out a solution before everyone lose’s his or her shirt and just packs it in.