Dressage has never been more popular than it is today. Since the 2012 London Olympics and the now famous ‘Dancing Horses’ as they were christened by the BBC, everyone wants to be a dressage rider. All you need is a sound horse, the desire and commitment to train him properly, and you’re on your way to success.
Getting your horse to competitions isn’t always easy. Travel costs can be prohibitively expensive, particularly if you live somewhere remote or miles away from the nearest competition venue. Some horses simply won’t load into a lorry or trailer, leaving you stranded.
There are also competition nerves to contend with. Some horses just don’t have the temperament required to compete successfully in dressage events. Your potential star might be the most chilled-out dude on the planet in the safe familiarity of his home arena or field, but the minute you arrive at a show, he becomes a quivering wreck.
Registering yourself and your horse to compete is expensive and many of the events are held midweek which is no good if you work. Weekend shows are available too of course but that can be difficult if you have family commitments. You’ll also have to invest in a whole new wardrobe of competition clothing which is very expensive, particularly if you find your horse doesn’t do well at competitions.
Of course you only have five minutes in which to show the judge what you can do. You can end up spending a fortune on registration and entry fees, taking days off works, and traveling for hours only to find that your horse spooks at the judge’s car every time you ride past it. You end up with a dreadful score that doesn’t reflect your horse’s true way of going at all.
It can be extremely frustrating. You’re willing to put in the hours of work, invest in training sessions to improve your horse, and read every dressage book you can lay your hands on but you’ll never be able to compete and have your hard work assessed by a judge. Well, now you can.
‘E-dressage’ as it’s referred to is a rapidly growing alternative to traditional competitions. Each month, e-dressage companies post an online schedule of dressage classes of various levels. Riders video themselves riding through one or more of the tests, post the video to YouTube, and enter the competition via the e-dressage company’s website. After the closing date, the videos are all judged by a member of the official UK dressage judges’ panel. The results are posted online, and the score sheets together with rosettes and any prize money is sent out to the entrants.
If you don’t have access to a dressage trainer, don’t worry! Some of the companies even offer virtual training sessions to members too, so you can have your very own personal dressage expert to help you without even leaving the yard.
Many people are using e-dressage as a means of assessing how well they might do in a ‘real’ competition before venturing out in public. E-dressage means that you can record your test any time that suits you. Pick a day when it’s not raining or too windy and have as many attempts as you like. Just post the best test you’ve done online and discard the rest! You don’t even have to wear competition kit; your comfy old breeches and boots will do just fine.
All you need is a 20m x 40m arena measured out and set up with the dressage letters. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a fancy arena! An area in your usual schooling field will do fine, and you can make your own letters too so there’s no need to spend a fortune. All the dressage tests are available online and are downloadable for a small charge.
E-dressage competitions are open to riders from anywhere in the world too so you can truly tell your friends you’ve become an international dressage rider!
If you want to try something challenging, addictive, and a little bit different from your usual horsey activities, why not give e-dressage a go? You never know; you and your horse could be the next Olympic superstars on the plane to Rio in 2016!
Image source: fei.org