International Grand Prix Dressage Competitors Show Big Drop At Start of 2018

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Is Great Britain still basking in the glow of 2012 Olympic gold? One of the few nations to show growth in dressage Grand Prix combinations coming into 2018. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Jan. 2, 2018

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The number of of riders and horses competing at international Grand Prix sustained a big drop over the past year with data issued by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Tuesday showing the first decline in Big Tour combinations in at least nine years.

The decline was 14 per cent to 701 combinations at the end of 2017 from 816 at the end of 2016, according to the FEI official worldwide rankings available here. Release of the rankings confirmed the unofficial calculations by dressage-news.com of the top 10 in the world coming into the new year.

Of the 10 nations with at least 30 combinations at Grand Prix, the biggest declines were the Netherlands down 19.6 per cent year-over-year, Spain 18.1 per cent lower, Sweden down 17.9 per cent, Germany 16.4 per cent lower, the United States off 11.2 per cent and Australia dropping 10.2 per cent.

Russia increased 7.6 per cent, France was up 5.8 per cent and Great Britain up 2.2 per cent, according calculations by dressage-news.com using FEI data.

Overall, FEI data available online going back to 2009 showed that the number of top sport combinations were 589 at the end of 2009, 610 in 2010, 654 in 2011, 655 in 2012, 680 in 2013, 717 in 2014, 797 in 2015 and 816 in 2016.

The figures showed registered Big Tour combinations in a total of 48 nations at the end of 2017, 10 fewer than a year earlier.

No Grand Prix combinations were registered in China or India, the two most populous nations in the world.

Youth divisions were mixed–Under-25 143 in 2017, down from 147 in 2016; Young Riders up to 400 from 395 and Juniors up to 491 from 480.

The rankings are compiled monthly to take into account performances over the previous 12 months.

The FEI was asked for comment on the figures but is on vacation for two weeks.

High prices of horses and an escalation in showing costs may be factors in the changes.

Also, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based governing body of international horse sports in 2016 was pre-occupied by proposed changes to results of dressage competitions dubbed HiLo scoring that was voted down at year’s end in the face of widespread opposition by national federations.

A CDI Amateur division was introduced in 2015 and combinations that were not on the FEI rankings could compete as amateurs so had to wait to be removed from the standings.

Dressage, one of three Olympic disciplines, lost its standing as an FEI department that also included para-dressage and was absorbed into an office that also manages reining and vaulting.

The other Olympic disciplines of jumping and eventing, that each are administered by their own departments, have ranking formats that center on riders and not combinations.

Both disciplines have shown steady increases in the number of competitors ranked by the FEI.

Jumping was at 3,142 at the end of 2017 compared wit 3,116 for 2016, 3,013 in 2015 and 2,747 in 2014. For eventing, the totals were 3,698 at the end of last year, 3,670 in 2016, 3,665 in 2015 and 3,392 in 2014.

Changes for the number of dressage competitors in nations with at least 10 combinations in either 2016 or 2017:

Australia 44 (2017) – 49 (2016)
Austria 23 – 27
Belgium 13 – 15
Belarus 9 – 14
Brazil 9 – 25
Canada 24 – 29
Denmark 31 – 33
Spain 36 – 44
Finland 16 – 15
France 36 – 34
Great Britain 46 – 45
Germany 81 – 97
Italy 16 – 16
Japan 11 – 21
Netherlands 45 – 56
New Zealand 9 – 12
Norway 7 – 10
Poland 10 – 15
Portugal 16 – 13
Russia 42 – 39
Switzerland 26 – 17
Sweden 32 – 39
USA 63 – 71