A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…(okay, so it was actually on an internet bulletin board just last year), a discussion was started regarding the USEF dressage committee’s proposal to create standards for dressage riders, requiring them to qualify before moving up and competing at a higher level at USEF recognized dressage shows. The initial qualification requirements under discussion included having riders remain at a particular level until they had completed a specific number of rides, earning a defined number of points from scores starting at 60%, before moving up to the next level. Qualifying requirements would have to be met to move from second to third level, and so on up the levels. Although some people would be grandfathered in (i.e., USDF medalists), a large number of riders would have to fulfill the proposed requirements. Not surprisingly, the proposal was met with howls of protest from the online community. From cash-strapped competitors, to those with average horses, to those who felt they should be able to choose what level in which to compete because they are the ones paying the entry fees, the arguments were heated on both sides of the disagreement.
After many long discussions and letters to the USDF and USEF from members and non-members alike, a decision was made by the USEF dressage committee to gather more information from the dressage community. A survey was created, and input was solicited from the membership at large. The survey was completed in the summer of 2008, and after crunching the numbers, the USEF dressage committee found that the majority of respondents did feel a need for some sort of standard for qualification (see performance standards). To that end, and also taking into account the feedback received, the USEF reviewed the proposal and produced a revised version (see the current version of the proposed rule).
In a nutshell, the latest version offers riders a number of options for qualifying to move up the levels. It even allows for those who feel they are under-mounted but capable, to take a test designed to judge only the rider’s ability (view the test). Suggested options to qualify draw from USDF rider award qualifications, from their outlined professional qualifications, and from new approaches, such as the rider test. Riders at the lower levels should be pleased to learn the requirements for meeting any standards have been removed through Third Level. Fourth Level will be the first level where riders will be required to meet qualification standards.
While this is a much improved version, there are bound to be some further doubts about its feasibility, in light of the recent economic downturns and the effect it is having on USDF and USDF membership. To date, no one has identified how this program will be managed nor what the costs will be and who will pay for them. Although the USEF and USDF have some time to work this out, there is concern that this rule change, designed to take effect in 2010, may be approved without this information. Undoubtedly the USDF have to shoulder much of the administrative expense since the USDF will probably be asked to provide information to the USEF, thereby increasing their operational overhead. The show secretaries will also have to find a system for verifying riders’ qualifications where the rider qualifications could not only be able to change from year to year, but also from show to show (which is still unclear at this point).
The USEF Dressage Standards Proposal was completed and submitted as an official USEF Rule change on September 1, 2008. However, it is not yet approved (voting will take place at the USEF National Meeting, January 14-18, 2009, in Cincinnati, OH). The USEF dressage committee will be fielding questions and concerns during a session at the USDF National Convention on Thursday, December 4, 2008 from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM. At that time, the CSDEA representatives, who we are sending to the convention, will have the opportunity to express your concerns. We are providing a survey in an effort to bring one voice to the meeting. An important issue, seemingly overlooked when information was being gathered regarding qualification requirements, is the question of the cost to the entire competitive dressage community, including competitors, show managers, and the organizations. For this reason, we are including questions relating to expenses.
Also included in our survey are questions on the USDF’s proposed dues and fees increases. (Please review the proposed budget details.)