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A year ago I wrote an article about people who abuse and take advantage of riding club rules by refusing to move up a level in dressage. It sparked a healthy debate on Facebook and I pushed for rules to be introduced within the association to ensure this wouldn't continue. We currently have rules for those who compete in Dressage Ireland but nothing for those who compete solely within riding club. I was so surprised to be shot down and told "everything is fine", and that the riding club "isn't a competition association but a place for amateurs". Em...so why do we hold competitions? Why do we have professionals competing in the riding club?

I agree you cannot force anyone to move up a grade in jumping from a safety point of view and, to be fair, showjumpers are usually keen to upgrade. I was extremely surprised to see that a recent winner of the showjumping championships has been outed as having been competing at a higher level in SJI - for nearly 3 months!

This question was politely raised on Facebook by a lady in my region. A discussion formed with people of differing views. It's a shame when our own association prefers to just delete comments on Facebook rather than reply and deal with the situation. There was no slandering of a person, nor of the association but rather questions (and possible solutions) raised about the current rules. The lady who highlighted the issue was then sent abusive messages from other members of the club telling her to "mind her own business" and to stop being a stalker. One reply on Facebook stated that her horse was difficult to ride, this argument is null and void as not only is it out winning at SJI at a higher level but it is the rider, not the horse, that is graded.

Now, I understand riders wanting to try a higher level to see if they are capable before upgrading. Our region generally allows you to jump at a higher level, in non-riding club events, about three times from September to December. I think this is fair as all the championships are over and you really need to try a few courses to see if you're ready. As for competing at a lower grade, if you or your horse have had a confidence knock then you can compete at Hors Concours at a lower grade for as long as you like. long-lasting cases you can apply for a downgrade. There is no excuse for a rider to be competing as a lower grade in riding club than in SJI.

Let's call a spade a spade. The rules are clear and this rider touted them. To be fair, there is no punishment for this. Will they be made to upgrade and that will be the end of it? This is a pivotal time for the riding club and how they deal with this will dictate how closely riders follow rules in the future. Should the rider forfeit her prize? Should they be banned from competition for X months? Should her club be fined for not monitoring their riders? There needs to be some sort of disciplinary procedure to ensure this never happens again.

The riding club has so much to offer for the amateur rider and I've gotten so many friends to join who love it as much as I do. The rules were created to ensure that we compete against those of a similar level and that there is a level playing field. These rules differentiate us from other associations where you could end up in a class with professionals on green or young horses. I think this is where the riding club has an advantage over other equestrian sports. But, whether we agree with all the rules or not, we have to abide by them when we join the association. 

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