Automatic Qualification from Summer Regionals 2016

British Dressage has just announced the number of competitors that will automatically qualify for the Nationals from each class at the Summer Regionals. This is the first time that I can remember them doing this. Normally an announcement is printed out and displayed near the score boards at each Regional Championship so you do not know the qualification criteria until you get to the competition.

So I think BD deserve a bit of credit for publishing the criteria on their website before the competition. However, I think that the reason that they have done this is that there will be less competitors automatically qualifying from Silver compared to the old Restricted and more competitors qualifying from Gold than the old Open.

I have therefore looked back over the last few Regionals to see how the current qualification criteria compare to the new qualification criteria.

Auto Qualification for Silver and Restricted

I have changed the 1 in X to a %. Mathematically this % is not actually correct but I think it is easier to see the change over the years by looking at % …. but don’t quote this %.

Open / RestrictedGold / Silver
Silver / Restricted2015 Winter2015 Summer2016 Winter2016 Summer
Advanced Medium11.1%5.3%11.1%3.8%

I have highlighted in red or green where there is a change of more than 1% from the previous Regionals. Red indicates that there are less competitors automatically qualifying and green indicates that more competitors are automatically qualifying.

This is not the first time that that there have been big changes in the qualifying criteria however it is the first time that there have been so many big changes at all levels and all but one of the changes are red i.e. there are less competitors qualifying.

Prelim is unusual because there are more competitors qualifying for the Nationals. I wonder if the Quest competitions are proving so successful that there are less competitors in Prelim?

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Auto Qualification for Gold and Open

Open / RestrictedGold / Silver
Gold / Open2015 Winter2015 Summer2016 Winter2016 Summer
Advanced Medium12.5%11.1%12.5%14.3%

This table shows that for Gold there are more competitors qualifying automatically because there are green highlights for all levels.

Why the big changes?

The Nationals is for a fixed number of days. The size of the classes are therefore fixed because otherwise the classes would run until very late at night or even into extra days. So The Nationals will have the same number of competitors as in previous years in each Gold/Open or Silver/Restricted class. I do not believe that the change in the qualification criteria is because BD want the Gold sections to be bigger and the Silver sections to be smaller or the Nationals to be only for professionals.

The problem is that there are so many more people competing in the Silver sections that there are now a lot more people who have qualified to compete at the Regionals. However, as discussed above the Nationals will have the same number of competitors in each Silver section so the auto qualification criteria must let fewer competitors through to the Nationals.

In the Gold section the problem is the other way round. There are less competitors in Gold than in the old Open Section but the size of the class at the Nationals is the same so the auto qualification criteria must let more competitors through to The Nationals.

So what is the problem?

The root cause of the problem is that the Silver section eligibility criteria are too wide because there are far too many competitors in this section. The flip side to this problem is there are too few competitors in the Gold section.

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I believe that BD need to change the silver and gold eligibility criteria. However, I am sure that I have read somewhere that they have said that they will not make any further changes to the rules until the new rule book in December 2016.

Why have BD changed the Nationals Qualification Criteria?

BD must have been monitoring the results since December 2015 and must have known that something would need to change to avoid having too many competitors at the Nationals. However, since the Rules were already published it was difficult to change anything. Imagine the outcry if in March 2016 BD had announced that too many competitors were qualifying for the Regionals and they changed the qualification criteria for the Regionals by increasing the points target for each level! It would be similar if not worse than the current complaints about the qualification criteria for the Nationals.

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The qualification criteria for the Nationals is not part of the Rule Book it is normally published by BD at the Regionals. So Nationals qualification can be changed at short notice without needing to change the Rule Book. So BD knew that something would need to change and Nationals Qualification criteria is the only thing they can change without needing to change the Rule Book or give any advance warning or notification.

When should this have been spotted?

The only way to avoid this problem was to change the Silver and Gold eligibility criteria before the Rule Book was published December 2015. The research and analysis that BD did before the rules were published should have revealed that the Silver eligibility criteria would result in too many competitors.

What is the impact on the Regionals?

I think that the Silver sections are going to be enormous and will probably have to be split into multiple sections. I am wondering if the most popular venues might even need to extend their Regional Championship by an additional day! Be prepared for early morning or late evening times. Silver sections will be very competitive!


I am not generally a believer in conspiracy theories. I do not believe that BD have a strategy to change the Nationals to Gold or professionals only. At the end of the day BD is a business (registered as a charity for tax & funding reasons) and I cannot see any business reason why BD would want to restrict the Nationals to Gold or professionals. It would make no sense and would only negatively impact revenue streams for BD and the many other businesses such as venues that depend on BD competitions.

Where some people see conspiracy the truth is its not a conspiracy its actually a cock up!

I believe that this problem goes back to before the Rule Book was published in December 2015 when there was an inadequate analysis to predict the number of competitors that would compete in Silver. This analysis may have been inadequate because the required information was just not stored in the BD database or the database did not allow the data to be queried as required or the analysis that was done was not rigorous enough.

Unfortunately, the impact is on members competing at the Regionals and reading the comments on Facebook there are a lot of members who are very annoyed. I think that BD will also have a major job to rebuild the confidence and trust of BD members.