Although we are just two months into 2022, British Dressage is already off to a flying start for the year. Our membership and horse registrations have both hit new record levels and this year’s Petplan Equine Winter Area Festivals have enjoyed record entries and starters.
At the end of 2021, British Dressage (BD) reported with great pride that our membership numbers had set a new record total – and following two strong months to kick off the year, we’ve exceeded the 18,000-member mark for the first time, with 18,132 members active in February. This has been a stated ambition for British Dressage for many years, so it’s very rewarding for everyone involved in the sport to have reached this significant milestone.
During the pandemic our membership levels fell to just over 14,000, due to the multiple lockdowns we experienced during the first 12 months of the crisis. However, we received incredible support from our stakeholder groups throughout, and by working together we were in a strong position to manage the recovery period. As a result, membership numbers recovered to pre-pandemic levels within ten weeks of the resumption of activity last spring and the sport has continued to grow at a rapid rate ever since.
After a year of rebuilding, with an unprecedented number of competition opportunities, the launch of exciting new initiatives and substantial investment back into the sport, we have seen the BD community return in their thousands, with a welcome mix of former and new members, to make dressage the fastest growing equestrian sport. There has been a 23% rise in member numbers in the last 12 months alone, demonstrating a real appetite and enthusiasm from riders, owners, trainers and officials alike to be part of affiliated dressage.
It’s not just people who are joining too; in June last year, we recorded our highest level of horses registered with British Dressage and numbers have continued to grow month on month since to sit just short of 16,800 currently.
An increase in membership and horses has also meant more combinations have gone down the centreline and, despite some challenges from the recent storms, starter numbers have also been extremely positive over the winter. What a contrast to 12 months ago, when we were all in enforced hibernation for the first quarter of 2021 and the Winter Championships had to be delayed to June.
Since we introduced two seasons for the Petplan Equine Area Festivals, our members have really embraced the biannual chance to compete in the sport’s largest series. Entries and starters for the Winter Area Festivals are set to finish up by just over 6% on last year, with one rescheduled fixture to run.
British Dressage CEO Jason Brautigam commented; “It has been quite a remarkable recovery from where we were at the height of the pandemic, and to reach such a significant membership milestone is a tremendous achievement for BD staff, our volunteers, venues and officials, as well as all of our competitors, who have worked so hard to get the sport back on track. It has been a real team effort, for which I’m both immensely proud and grateful.
“We took great care to safeguard the sport during the pandemic and endeavoured to keep the BD community informed throughout. As we finally emerge from the crisis, it is satisfying to see that these collective efforts have paid dividends, meaning we are in a strong position to reinvest in the sport we all love, for the benefit of all participants.
“Hopefully with COVID now behind us, we can continue to develop British Dressage in line with the strategic plan that we launched last year, with a number of projects coming to fruition soon. We will see the first cohorts complete their training plans and able to book onto the new judge education system in April, when we will also be launching an exciting new professional package for coaches, demonstrating our commitment to delivering high standards of professionalism and integrity in our sport.
“We have started the year extremely well and have much to look forward to over the year ahead, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued input and support.”