Eventing vs Dressage

Eventing vs Dressage

SUGGESTION: The club has become completely geared towards eventing. Where has the dressage gone? Where are the educational events? We are down to two shows for the state and the amount of eventing type events have doubled. Our only events are more and more schooling shows (which are now combined with the eventing schooling shows). Why hasn’t more of an effort been made to help the dwindling number of dressage participants? How are the membership numbers looking now? Because many people are silently upset that they are being excluded. In all honesty, if you guys want to keep moving towards eventing, (especially with a board that consists of mainly eventers, that NEVER changes) then make it an eventing association and be done with it.

RESPONSE: Thank you for taking the time to contact the SEDA Board with your concerns. We appreciate your comments and will address each point you made.

To say that SEDA has become “completely geared towards eventing” is exaggeration at best. SEDA has continued to offer its Fleur de Leap horse trials and combined test (with dressage-only opportunities) since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Since 2006, the Board was committed to rebuilding the cross country course and re-establishing a recognized horse trial for the area. This took time, money, and work – and, unfortunately, it’s taken this long to offer a recognized horse trial again. However, this was always the goal (refer to the Board meeting minutes as published in Off Course from 2006-2014). We have met that goal without adding any new SEDA-operated eventing competitions. If you are thinking of the eventing derbies at Lagniappe that were new in 2015 and continue in 2016, these are privately run by Lagniappe Equestrian Center. They asked for, and were granted, SEDA recognition for year-end awards. The Christmas dressage and combined test shows of a few years’ past at Amen Corner were also independently operated but were granted SEDA recognition for year end awards. When that organizer stopped offering the show, SEDA stepped in and took it over to make sure our members maintained that opportunity to compete in a schooling show, whether that be dressage, combined test or horse trial. What you may be seeing is that the local horse community wanted more eventing-type shows, and at the end of the day, show managers of independent farms and stables are largely the ones responsible for what is offered.

You ask what has happened to dressage?  The ‘dwindling number of dressage riders’ is the root of the problem. It is not financially responsible for the club (or anyone) to host shows which lose a lot of money. We’re not talking hundreds of dollars, but thousands of dollars the club has lost hosting recognized dressage shows with very low attendance. We will gladly offer a show if attendance warrants that it will break even or, at worst, result in a very minimal loss. We’re not in it for the profit, be we cannot repeatedly sustain huge losses. That is irresponsible. For years, SEDA’s Le Bon Temps has been a controversial show to offer because of the amount of money it takes to run it, and quite honestly, participation at the local level at this show has been weak.  In case you don’t know, it’s very expensive to produce a recognized dressage show: judge fees, TD fees, facility fees, organization fees, show secretary fees, travel and lodging and meal expenses for the out-of-town officials, and more. The reason there are so few shows in our area anymore is that the demand has dwindled. This is, in part, why the people who used to coordinate these shows no longer do so. It has nothing to do with SEDA catering to eventing riders! We cannot control the fact that the show managers who ran Dressage Across the Lake and some of the other local shows limited – or even stopped offering – the shows that were once so popular BECAUSE it becomes a supply and demand issue. It is extremely hard work with very little pay off or benefit.

We have to serve the demand and be responsible to the fiscal soundness of the club on behalf of all our members. People are willing to attend schooling shows, they are not so willing to attend recognized dressage shows. Out-of-town riders have decreased in number as well, choosing instead to compete closer to home. We are sincerely hoping that with the additional qualifiers added to Le Bon Temps that we will draw a larger attendance which will help the show grow. We’ll find out in May! Another thing to consider is the difficulty in getting a judge, a date which will maximize attendance, doesn’t conflict with anything else on the calendar in the area or region, and which will work with our volunteer base. It’s not as simple as just deciding to ‘host a recognized dressage show’! As you can see, there are a lot of factors involved which contribute to the reduced number of dressage shows available in the area. SEDA has put its money where its mouth is when it comes to offering what its club members have asked for and are willing to support – and then some. If you would like to be on the committee to plan recognized dressage shows, please contact Leslie Morris. We would love to have more people involved.

As far as educational opportunities … we are always open to suggestions regarding educational opportunities members may want and would like to offer more. When members suggest something to us, we consider it, see if it is feasible both financially and something that can be scheduled on the calendar, if there is enough interest to warrant putting it together … and if those criteria are met, we make a sincere effort to offer it. Historically, attendance at these events is very low, which indicates that it is not that important to members. Case in point, the freestyle clinic we are offering this spring – because a member mentioned that they would like to see it offered – is still not full. Consider that auditors at local clinics are nearly non-existent as well. This is not unique to SEDA. USDF itself has ceased offering the Adult Clinic series due to low attendance nationwide. It is difficult getting feedback from members regarding what they want to attend for education. If we don’t know what members want, how can we offer it? If you have a suggestion for an educational opportunity you would like to see or how to encourage more participation in dressage, please contact the Dressage Director so she can bring these suggestions to the show committee and the Board.

Regarding the Board structure … we had a Board election in 2015. All members in good standing were encouraged to run for a position on the Board. We had to beg people to fill the vacant positions, and others generously offered to stay on so that there would not be a number of vacancies on the Board. To insinuate the Board is “stacked” with eventing-exclusive members is simply NOT TRUE. Please take a look at the current Board and analyze each individual’s riding resume and show history: Lynn Quast – eventing; Elizabeth Simmons – hunter/jumper, dressage, some eventing; Leslie Morris – dressage; Nicole Miller – dressage; Janel Martin – dressage; Elaine Harmon – dressage; Leyla Nichols – dressage; Lisette Constantin – eventing; Morgan Vaughn – eventing. That doesn’t seem to indicate an eventing monopoly, in fact, it is fairly balanced as far as discipline preference is concerned. The entire Board recognizes the importance of attending to the needs of all members of the club, no single discipline gets preferential treatment.

We appreciate your concern in feeling that the club is focusing more on eventing than dressage right now, and we hope that you now can see that this is not the case. We strongly encourage our membership to encourage other riders to get involved in the recognized dressage shows which are offered so that demand increases and SEDA – and the independent show organizers – can offer more of these shows in our area. We really would like to, but until it is economically feasible to do so, we encourage you and everyone else to support Le Bon Temps and The First Dance. Please consider sending in suggestions for educational events, and consider running for a Board position in the next election. In the meantime, please support the events which are offered and those who are doing their best to offer education and rewarding competition opportunities to our members.

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