A few of weeks ago I attended the Horse Riding Clubs Association of Victoria (HRCAV) Top Teams Dressage event.
I believe the HRCAV is somewhat unique to Australia and particularly to Victoria. The Association really has provided something wonderful for the adult riding community across all disciplines.
Official dressage competition in Australia, or anywhere else in the world presumably, is damned competitive and increasingly the domain of professionals and very serious amateurs. I’m firmly of the belief anyone can and should be able to compete in this arena if they wish but the simple fact is that to be in the placings you need a purpose bred animal and that’s just the start! For those who ride as a hobby, may ride a couple of times a week and have a horse that may have been purchased for reasons other than its ability to do a Grand Prix dressage test well the HRCAV is for you! Now I’m certainly not trying to knock those who ride official dressage and there’re often people in the higher levels of HRCAV who ride both HRCAV and official competition but for those who are riding for both the social outing and some friendly competition this is the way to go!
There were around 600 entries at the competition and I must admit I was expecting to witness a certain amount of ‘stressage’ going on. I was pleasantly surprised to only see people genuinely enjoying themselves and their horses. Please, if anyone had a terrible time, don’t burst my happy little bubble OK? There were spotty horses, coloured horses, ponies, plaited, unplaited all sorts of breeds and riders of all ability levels. There was camaraderie, laughter and above all people having fun! More people were leaving arenas laughing rather than crying if something went wrong in the test.
The great thing, in my opinion, about the HRCAV is that what you’re riding really doesn’t matter that much. If you want to be included in a group of people who enjoy their horses and the social aspect of being involved with a club then this is the place for you! If you wish to be competitive there’s certainly very competitive combinations out there at all levels.
Levels commence at L5 in all disciplines. Level 5 is not particularly demanding with dressage judges looking for a combination which is relaxed, forward and making correct shapes but may not be working in a frame, may not have canter leads established all the time and transitions aren’t always asked for on a marker. If you’ve just returned to riding or are a beginner you can still go out and enjoy a competition at the lower levels whilst getting back into it or learning what it’s all about. The levels progress through to Advanced with combinations either pointing out through competition placings or being assessed up a level on request by a Level Assessor.
I teach at many HRCAVs and have only ever found them to be welcoming and enjoyable places. One I teach at now and then even has a lunch after lessons with champagne, my kind of club! There are clubs with large numbers of members, clubs with single digit memberships as they start up but if you’re in Victoria I’d almost guarantee there’s one close by!
I’ve noticed a few similar clubs starting up in South Australia which is great. I’d love to hear about your club or if there are similar organisations overseas also! Tell us about them in the comments section.