One of my favorite things about dressage is that there are so many ways to play. Schooling shows, recognized shows, little local ones, big hairy international ones, everything in between. There’s room in our sport for the person with the day job who are weekend warriors with their rescue pony, and there’s room in our sport for the independently wealthy with time and resources to ride at the top level. There’s room for the professional who teaches people how to do their first tests, and there’s room for the professional who brings them to the international ring. There’s lots of room.

But I’ve always felt that dividing classes by rider occupation was a silly line in the sand to draw. The working students of the world who come to their jobs not knowing much more than how to put their horses on the bit have to compete in their first-ever first level test against me on something with international ambitions, and that seems unfair. The weekend warrior on the pony has to compete against the amateur who’s made Grand Prix horses and is starting anew with something young, and that seems unfair.

And yeah, it’s just a ribbon. At the local shows, I don’t care, but some people do. And at the regional and national championships, a lot of people do. For some riders, that local show is their regionals, or their nationals or their Olympics.

What if, instead of dividing classes by rider occupation, we divided them by level of rider experience?

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!