Trends in US Dressage – Part 2

This is the second installment in a multi-part blog series that reviews trends in US Dressage using data collected by regarding participation in recognized Dressage shows and events for the 2003 – 2012 show seasons.  For the most part, the trends and analyses reviewed in this series have not been explored or discussed anywhere else to date.

In the first article, Trends in US Dressage – Part 1, we reviewed the overall downward trend of Dressage Activity in the United States since 2007.  In this second blog post of the series, we look at a more detailed breakdown of that downward trend.  For the purposes of this analysis, I have excluded Junior /Young Riders, so the group below includes only Adult Amateur and Open riders.

Segmenting the Downward Trend

In the measurement of voluntary participation in any activity, there will be a natural ebb and flow of that participation which includes new participants, the attrition of existing participants and a steady, consistent core.  Dressage is no different.  Each year, overall activity will be made up of 3 primary groups:

  • Active Riders:  These are those dedicated few who are always showing.  For the purposes of this analysis, these are riders who rode in recognized shows both the current year as well as the prior year.
  • New Riders:  Each year, a new crop of riders decides to try Dressage for the first time, this is the new blood of the sport.  These are riders who, regardless of how long they may have ridden other disciplines, are riding in their first recognized Dressage show.  In some cases, this number could also include riders who have been inactive on the show circuit for 8 or more years.
  • Returning Riders:   These are riders who, while actively showing in the current year, do not have any show record for the prior Competition Year, but do have a show record prior to a year ago.


Hard Core Dressage

The # of casual Riders (those showing on and off over the years) makes up the bulk of dressage activity in the US.  It is interesting to note that, while this group (as well as the # of New Riders) has declined sharply since 2007 and the onset of the economic recession, there is a smaller but core group of “Active” riders (those who show year after year) whose participation has stayed constant over the last 7-8 years.  This Active group of Hard Core Dressage show riders has completed just under 10,000 rides a year since 2006, even while participation in the other groups dropped.

The core group of Active Riders is mostly made up of Adult Amateurs.

The core group of Active Riders is mostly made up of Adult Amateurs.

We will look at the ever-active topic of Adult Amateur participation in US Dressage in more detail in the next article in this series, but one interesting aspect of this Hard Core Active Dressage group is the breakdown between Amateur and Open (“professional”) riders.  From 2010 – 2012 (the years that the most reliable information related to Rider division are available), this Active Rider group was made up of an ever-increasing % of Adult Amateurs

As we saw in Part 1 of our Analysis, the overall downward trend in US Dressage activity since 2007 is not uniform and when analyzed in detail, some subgroups emerge that show either steady or increasing participation.  In the next post in this series, we will analyze in more detail the role, profile and activity of Adult Amateurs in National US dressage shows.



This data was aggregated from the detailed dressage test results visible at for Training through Grand Prix level (excluding Young Horse, Dressage Sport Horse, Materiale and Breed-specific classes – except where noted) earned at USDF/USEF recognized shows for the 2003 to 2012 Show Seasons. is the most complete and most accurate source for dressage scoring and show results data for United States Equestrian Federation recognized Dressage Shows. The site has over 1.6 million dressage scores for shows from 1993 on and serves as the premiere destination for Dressage enthusiasts interested in researching scores and show results for Horses, Riders and Trainers.

This analysis and all associated charts are Copyrighted 2012 by and Black Horse, White Horse, LLC.  All rights reserved.  Do not reproduce without permission.

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