BD CEO Quarter 2 update

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Wed, 10 Jul 2019 21:21 GMT

It’s hard to believe that we’re six months into the year already. The time has flown by as we’ve been busy working on various different initiatives at BDHQ and in the regions. It’s been challenging at times keeping so many plates spinning, but also very rewarding with a number of projects progressing well, so I’d like to take this opportunity to update you all on what we’ve achieved in the year to date.

Member Survey 2019

The Membership Survey was a major initiative for the team at HQ this spring and I’d like to say thank you to all who took the time to complete the questionnaire. We received a total of 3,715 responses overall – that’s a 23% participation rate – which surpassed our expectations. A strong mix of riders, officials and owners, with a good cross section of members from Full to Club and Youth to Para, across the various different levels and sections, has given us a huge amount of data and feedback to digest.

We focused on two main areas; membership and competitions. It perhaps won’t surprise you to learn that 97% of members say that access to affiliated competitions is their primary motivator with 68% saying it’s extremely important. So this highlights why it’s absolutely vital that we get things right in this key area.

Access to competitions scored a satisfaction rating of 4.2 out of 5, which shows that members are largely happy with what’s currently on offer. But there’s no room for complacency and you gave us plenty of valuable feedback on areas that you feel could be improved, which we have fed into the strategic planning process, so rest assured that we have taken all of your comments on board.

In particular, there is still some concern that our rules, eligibility and qualification processes are difficult to understand, with 70% saying that the competition structure is too complex and 51% wanting more straightforward rules. So the clear message is to simplify, streamline and consolidate the existing system, so that our sport is easier to navigate, while still providing a good choice and range of competition opportunities for riders at all levels.

Measuring the development of your horse, progressing up the competition ladder, qualifying for championships, and having fun while competing were the prime motivations for all member groups, so we need to ensure the structure facilitates these priorities. Other headline results revealed that:


  • 97% enjoy competing with us, with 83% indicating that they have good access to competitions within reach of where they live and 82% happy that there was a clear distinction between the grass roots and professionals.
  • 84% agreed that qualifying was an achievable goal and 71% stated that the championship offer currently suits their needs
  • However, 60% want to see the calendar more evenly spread over the course of the year, while 60% also think that there are currently too many different championship options.

While many of you felt that the competition structure and rules were too complex, 58% still said that eligibility and qualification was easy to understand. There is some disparity in the results, perhaps reflecting the polarised views among members, so this is something we clearly still need to address in order to ensure that the sport is seen as accessible to all.

Above all else, we’re a membership organisation so we wanted to gauge just how satisfied you are with us and the results are very encouraging:


  • 81% of you say that we are a professional and successful organisation, with over 70% also agreeing that we are passionate about our sport and respectful to members.
  • Overall, you gave us a satisfaction rating of 7.0 out of 10, with 43% awarding an 8 or more.
  • Those who’ve had contact with the team at BDHQ rated us as 7.8 out of 10, with 62% going 8 or higher.
  • The regional teams, staff and volunteers, also got a big thumbs up, with an average of 8.0 and 68% scoring between 8 and 10.

In dressage, we certainly don’t give marks of 7 or higher lightly so this has to be a very positive reflection of how British Dressage is perceived as an organisation and National Governing Body. We are incredibly proud of our hard-working staff and volunteers – and clearly when you have direct contact with us, you have had a good experience, which is great to hear.

A massive 96% of respondents said they’re likely, highly likely or will definitely renew their membership, which is another big positive – and we are extremely grateful for your ongoing support.

This is just a snapshot of what we’ve learned so far - we’re still working through the data and comments and will do some more detailed analysis. We’ve already been given an invaluable steer on some of our projects already in motion, so it was a well-timed exercise, as well as providing input to our short, medium and long-term goals.

More detail on our member survey results will follow in the coming weeks, while we will also be making some exciting announcements about changes planned for 2020. Watch this space…

Membership & Sport Operations

Overall numbers are generally looking healthy at around the 16,900 mark. Club membership is up by almost 4% on the same time last year, while full members are marginally down by 0.8%. The number of horses registered to compete continues to grow, with full horse registrations up by 3%, while Club horses have grown by 13%.

With the weather being mostly favourable this year, you’ve been out competing more with starters up by 4.6% on forecast. With only a few results left to process for June, it looks like the trend is going to continue, meaning that we’ve exceeded our budget targets for five of the six months of the year to date.

In total there have been 1,615 competition days run in the first half of the year, 72% full BD shows and 28% for Quest, which is again up 4% on the same period last year.

All of the Petplan Equine Area Festival and Summer Regional notifications have now been sent and we’re on to processing notifications for the two championships that currently utilise leaderboards for qualification, the Summer Music and the Bronze Championships. We’re expecting to get emails out next week to those qualified, ahead of entering the two championships at Sheepgate in August.

IT update

Further to my last update, we’ve made great progress with Phase III of our IT transformation project, which is our new CRM system that provides our membership database and horse registrations. The user acceptance testing phase has gone well and the system is virtually ready for launch. However, as I have emphasised from the outset, the outputs are only going to ever be as good as the inputs and as we have gone through this testing process it’s clear that there are some issues with the existing data that needs to be imported from the current system.

It’s vitally important that we get this right: the quality and integrity of the information we hold on our members has to be our paramount consideration. Transferring over one million records from one system to another was never going to be straightforward or easy, so we are going to take some extra time to cleanse the data and ensure that the new system will be as robust and reliable as possible.

Some of you will have already received communication from us about data that may be missing from your records, such as an email address or contact telephone numbers. We also have some duplicate email addresses, multiple accounts and under 16s without a registered parent, guardian or carer.

So we will continue with the process of cleansing the database over the course of the summer and look to release Phase III in the autumn now instead. This won’t have any impact on you as a member competing, we would just ask for your help in updating your membership records and ensuring that you have a registered current email address, as you will need this for logging on to the new system when we do go live.

This will also enable us to continue developing the new website in parallel with our CRM system and ideally launch them simultaneously later this year. This will mark a significant milestone for BD, which has been a long time coming, and we have to thank you all again for your patience. However, in taking time to get this right I am confident that members will have a greatly enhanced experience once the IT project is complete. We will of course keep you updated in your monthly Engage newsletter, as well as additional communication as we countdown to launch.

HQ news

You’ll have seen the update on directors that we posted last week in the latest BD newsletter. Linda Whetstone and Judy Harvey were the sole nominations for the Chair and International Director roles, so they will be put forward for members to ratify at the AGM in September. The Nominations Committee also approved the applications from four candidates for the position of Sport Operations Director, who will now go forward for election by members, so please look out for your voting email coming out on Monday 8 July.

The announcement of our first Extra Director was another significant milestone in BD’s history and illustrates that having a mix of elected and appointed directors is key to getting the right balance of skills, knowledge and expertise on the Board. I’m delighted to welcome Suzanne Homewood as our first Business Development Director and the professional credentials she brings, alongside her enthusiasm and passion for dressage, make her a fantastic addition to BD.

We have a new Membership Assistant who has joined the office team – so a warm welcome to Katie Benn – and we’re also about to appoint a new Training and Education Officer to start in a month’s time. This will leave just one more vacancy in marketing, as we look to recruit someone who has specific experience in digital content and design. They will join our new Marketing Manager, Becca Tuttle, who has already made a positive impact in her first three months, and bring the team in Meriden up to full strength.

At the six month stage the indications currently are that we should generate another six figure surplus come the end of the year. The newly established Finance and Business Development Committee will be looking at an investment strategy as part of their remit, now we’ve hit our reserves target of £2 million, and the Board will be considering how we can best invest any additional surplus generated for the future development of our sport.

Special projects

In my last CEO Update, I highlighted two specific projects we’re working on, reviewing our Championship structure and the Judges’ examination system. Both are progressing well, with further information, feedback and comments from the member survey now incorporated into this process.

The recommendations from the Championship Structure Review have been further developed by the Sport Operations Committee and will now be put forward for final approval by the Board at their meeting later this month. These plans will then be communicated to members in August before the changes are implemented from next season onwards, effective from 1 December and included in our next Members’ Handbook. The work has focused primarily on the ever popular Area Festivals series and I think members will be pleased with the changes that have been proposed.

The Judges Examination Working Group has had two productive meetings and shared their concepts with the Board, Judges Committee, Regional Chairs and Judges Representatives. Initial feedback has been very supportive of the changes in principle, so we are now working on a more detailed development plan in advance of the next Judges Committee meeting in mid-July. Again, this will go to the Board at the end of the month and we’ll look to update judges and members more fully on the new system in August.

It has been a busy and productive first six months for the organisation; the office teams are settling in to their new structure, we’re driving projects in key areas which will have a major impact on all stakeholders, and overall the numbers that impact the bottom line are generally on an upward trajectory. But this doesn’t give us any excuse to take our foot off the pedal!

Next year is an Olympic year which brings another huge opportunity for British Dressage. We will have a new five year strategy to launch, all the work done in our special projects will start to come to fruition and course we’ll also be looking to address and develop the areas for improvement that were identified in the Members’ Survey – so we constantly move forward and evolve into a modern, progressive and professional National Governing Body.

In the meantime, I hope you are having a successful 2019 so far and your season is on track in terms of your personal goals and ambitions. Enjoy the summer!

Best wishes,

Jason Brautigam
CEO, British Dressage