Norfolk riding club calling for change in dressage competition rule

Johanna Macarthur, secretary of the Norfolk HorseTraining and Equitation Club, with Jimmy.

Johanna Macarthur, secretary of the Norfolk HorseTraining and Equitation Club, with Jimmy. - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk riding club is at the forefront of a campaign to change dressage competition rules across the country.

The Norfolk Horse Training and Equitation Club (NHTEC) based at Running Free Farm, Church Road, Aylmerton, wants riders to have the choice of using bitless bridles.

Currently competitors have to use a bridle with a bit – a metal rod which goes in a horse's mouth and is connected to the harness.

Dressage is the only competition in Britain where riders have to use these types of bridles but there are concerns that bits – if not used properly – can cause harm and pain.

Johanna Macarthur, NHTEC secretary, said: 'It seems a nonsense that this rule exists. It is archaic and the national equestrian associations are holding on to silly old ways. It is all about freedom of choice.'

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The club was the first in Britain to allow riders in competitions to have the option to go bitless after an extraordinary general meeting in August.

Following that decision, the club wrote to the British Horse Society, British Dressage and British Eventing and British Equestrian Federation.

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Mrs Macarthur said the bit was seen in the past as the best way for a rider to communicate with the horse but over the past 15 years alternative training methods have been taken up.

Trond Asmyr, from the international body Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), said: 'Revising the tack requirements to include what some would term softer options would substantially alter the fundamentals of the sport. Allowing bitless bridles at the top level would not permit the same assessment of one of the cornerstone criteria – thoroughness and acce ptance of the bit – on which performance is judged.'

Paul Graham, sport operations manager at British Dressage, said the association acted under the rules of the FEI through the British Equestrian Federation which did not allow for bitless bridles in dressage competitions, so British Dressage rules would remain.

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