“Blokes Ride Dressage, Too” Campaign to Attract Aussie Males Making Gains

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Boy rider encouragement award Paul Newall, John Thompson and Elliot Patterson
Boy rider encouragement award Paul Newall, John Thompson and Elliot Patterson

SYDNEY, July 30–A “Blokes Ride Dressage, Too” campaign to attract more males to the sport reports making some gains after two years as part of the Australian Young Rider Championships at the Sydney International Equestrian Center last week.

Launched two years ago by Paul Newall of Project Outcomes Pty. Ltd. and the father of two successful young riders, the initiative produced “a small increase” in the number of boys who contested the awards this year.

Newall launched the program offering A$1,000 (US$825) in prize money after observing the gender disparity in Australian dressage, particularly at the grass roots Young Rider level.

“The sport needs better male participation to attract corporate sponsorship and continued government support as a relevant mainstream sport,” Newall said, “like the Europeans, access the best riders irrespective of gender, and to create a profile where males feel that they can participate in the sport without the negativity and stereotyping that I’ve seen my own son go through.

“As arguably the most technically demanding equestrian discipline, not only does the sport need the qualities that males can bring, young males should have the opportunity to participate and derive the huge benefits that the sport has to offer.”

This year, there were 40 tests ridden by males at the championships, up from 33 tests in 2008 when it was part of the state of New South Wales event.

“Although we had hoped for better numbers I think the fact that this year we were at the National Championships which required higher qualifying scores made it a little tougher,” he said.

“Our idea was to start with a two-year trial, and now we will look ahead to see how we can cast the net further and continue to improve the numbers of boys in the sport.

“There is no reason why male riders from other disciplines, especially Eventers, perhaps emulating the likes of Heath Ryan, can’t come and hone their dressage skills while competing for some handy prize money—both the sport and the individuals will have benefited.”