If you’re a wannabe dressage diva who’d like to test your ability against local riders, or just get out and have fun with your horse at local shows, then why not give unaffiliated dressage a go? There are plenty of local unaffiliated dressage shows run throughout the UK all year round, offering the chance to grass roots riders to win rosettes – and some times even a bit of prize money too.
Why compete in unaffiliated dressage shows?
Unlike affiliated dressage, unaffiliated dressage shows are not run in conjunction with British Dressage, the governing body for dressage in the UK. Whereas affiliating with British Dressage means riders win points enabling them to qualify for major shows, unaffiliated dressage does not.
The main difference between unaffiliated and affiliated dressage is that unaffiliated riders can typically compete at any level. In affiliated dressage, you’re graded and move up and down the levels accordingly. However, in unaffiliated dressage, there’s can be nothing to stop someone who normally rides at preliminary level from riding a novice test or higher, should they wish to give it a go. The downside of this is that more experienced riders can enter preliminary and even introductory dressage classes if they like, which some times causes a few grumbles! However, some venues include rules to prevent successful horse and rider combinations from competing at the lower levels, while others don’t, so it’s important you read the schedule carefully before entering.
There are pros and cons – you need to pay a fee to affiliate, and generally the standard of judging for affiliated dressage tests is considered to better, whereas unaffiliated dressage tests can be judged by anyone and the standards are usually more relaxed. Unaffiliated dressage shows take place regularly at riding centres and are organised by riding/pony clubs all over the country, so are a great way of getting out and about and competing your horse. Some riding schools also run unaffiliated dressage shows using their own horses, which gives riders without a horse the opportunity to compete.
Most unaffiliated dressage tests are performed under British Dressage rules, using British Dressage tests, and all competitors are expected to observe a strict code of conduct, although the judges will sometimes have a more relaxed attitude towards dress code, for example. Under British Dressage rules, you’re not meant to wear half-chaps to compete; however, this is a common sight at unaffiliated shows. The judges at unaffiliated shows are often British Dressage judges, although this is not always the case so if you’re not sure, check with the show organiser first.
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