I have come back to BE90 for the first time since 2006. Normally I avoid BE90 like the plague and prefer to start my horses at BE100 with the thought of moving them pretty quickly up to Novice. Instead they are run round excellent local unaffiliated courses in order to get experience before they are ready to go and do BE100.
One of the reasons is cost as it’s so much cheaper to produce horses this way, and the other is some of them are not ready to be competitive in the dressage so I would rather give them the time to come out and be more competitive at BE100 instead.
This year I am on a young horse who is mentally amazing and who has picked up dressage very quickly in the 6 months of having been introduced to flatwork. I felt that this horse could come out earlier and have a crack at BE90 and see what happens. What has surprised me is the scores that are being achieved at BE90. In my two sections at different events the winner has been on 21 and 23 and this is just two random sections. When I started looking closer I noticed this was not just a one off but becoming increasingly common. A 30-33 (70-67%) dressage test will not cut it any longer to even get a top 5 placing at many events.
West Wilts last week had a winner on 11.5. Now in all honesty was their dressage test really worth 88.5%? You just never see these scores at British Dressage and most scores are 72% or below with a few exceptional ones above. This would relate to a 28 which feels correct. The dressage judge used the full range of marks with the section being spread out.
I do not quite understand why there is such a vast difference in judging at BE90 compared to BD prelim tests and my main conclusions are that the dressage tests are far too easy.
The dressage judge criteria is the same as BE100 but you rarely see the same ridiculous scores at BE100 than you do at BE90. The only difference is that the BE100 tests are harder.
If you take the test BE95 I think we counted something like 8 transitions through the whole test which is absolutely absurd. There are more transitions in a walk and trot test. Endless 20m circles hardly prepares the horse and rider for anything apart from becoming mentally brain dead let alone dealing with the upcoming tests in the jumping phases.
If you compare the BE90 tests with BD tests then it’s like dealing with apples and pears. The BD test Prelim 7 was perhaps closest to what is being asked at BE90 and that was retired many years ago. The modern prelim tests ask more questions and don’t just have endless 20m circles.
In my opinion the BE90 tests should be renamed for BE80 as the scores appear to be roughly correct with a good spread of scores between 25-45 which is roughly where it should be for that test. The BE100 tests should be moved to BE90 and there should be new BE100 tests which include some lengthened strides and other things you might find in some of the easier BD Novice tests. This for me would be a far better test of riders without asking too much for less experienced riders and horses.
I feel having walked several BE90 courses that the questions are fine for jumping and do not need amending but that actually the dressage is too easy for riders, who have significantly upped their game in the last few years. More intricate and involved tests will reward the well trained and obedient horse rather than letting some of the flashier horses do well who are perhaps not so consistent because the test does not ask anything of them.
Ridiculous scores like 11.5 are in my opinion bad for the sport. They are discouraging and they don’t make the sport look consistent and in line with BD. There is a lot hanging on the results of BE90 now with the Blenheim dressage competition, BE regional final qualifications and long term implications of retaining membership over unaffiliated.