The future of Dressage following the huge success of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the introduction of an FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage series, and the review of the judging format of the Freestyle to Music tests were the main discussion topics at the Dressage Round Table at the FEI Sport Forum in Lausanne. FEI Dressage and Para-Dressage Director Trond Asmyr opened the session, celebrating the fact that the sport is currently enjoying the greatest level of popularity in its history. It is vital to secure its further development in terms of spectator numbers and appeal to young riders, event organisers, new fans, the media and especially television, he commented. In order to address these challenges successfully, the sport must be well structured.
FEI Dressage Committee Chair Frank Kemperman proposed the introduction of a Medium Tour, which would bridge the significant gap between Grand Prix, the sport's highest level, and Small Tour. "Currently there are 660 Grand Prix horses on the FEI World Dressage Rankings," Kemperman said. "Grand Prix is a difficult level which is accessible to relatively few combinations that compete only six to eight times a year. It would be a huge benefit to organisers to make it possible for the top riders to compete more often and to open the sport to new faces," he said.
A new Dressage test between Intermediate I and II will be developed for use at international events to provide an easier transition for young horses and young riders, allow for a higher number of starters at shows. The new level will also benefit for horse welfare.
Delegates welcomed this proposal, particularly as a Medium Tour would help grow the sport in countries outside Europe. "This is a very good development and we embrace it," Jim Wolf, USEF Executive Director of Sport Programmes said. "A Medium Tour would be very important for us," Colombian Dressage rider Constanza Jaramillo added. A similar structure exists on the national level in several countries, and their experience will be very useful in the further development of this project.
FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage
The introduction of the FEI Nations Cup™ Dressage is also an important element for the future of the sport. Starting in May this year, a test season will be conducted to evaluate the series' potential. The current calendar is as follows:
• CDIO 3* Vidauban (FRA), 17-20 May
• CDIO 5* Rotterdam (NED), 19-23 June
• CDIO 5* Aachen (GER), 25-30 June
• CDIO 3* Hickstead (GBR), 1-4 August (subject to confirmation).
"Up till now we only had Nations Cups at Championships," International Dressage Officials Club (IDOC) representative Wojtek Markowski (POL) said. "Introducing a dedicated series is a good step forward. It will allow riders of various levels to compete alongside each other and will help young riders to learn from being on a team."
Trond Asmyr spoke about the proposed changes to the Freestyle judging format. The Freestyle, which is hugely popular with spectators and TV viewers and has been instrumental in the current popularity of the sport, contains the most subjective judging elements of all Dressage tests. Continuous efforts should therefore be made to increase its objectivity. The ideas put forward to achieve this include changing the artistic marks, further defining the degree of difficulty and improving the way the selected music is judged.
"Today we received very good feedback from the participants which is reassuring as it means we're on the right track," Asmyr commented. "Our aim is to make the judging as objective as possible, but it must not be so complex that it delays the results. We will consider all these components but will not comprise on the existing key elements."
A test event where the new ideas will be evaluated will be organised this year. The plan is to introduce the new judging methods for the Freestyle in 2014. Panellists for the Dressage Round Table were Frank Kemperman (NED), Dressage Committee Chair; Dressage Committee members Thomas Bauer (GER), David Hunt (GBR), Kyra Kyrklund (FIN); Hans-Christian Matthiesen (DEN); and Trond Asmyr, FEI Director, Dressage and Para-Dressage.
All presentations made at the Sports Forum are available on http://www.fei.org/ and executive summaries of all sessions will also be on the website within the next couple of days.