(“That’s the way we’ve always done it.”)
A mini controversy—about as “mini” as it can get, but isn’t that what dressage thrives on? At issue: should the gate be closed during tests at the Regional Championships?
The argument of those on the negative side: it is left open at all the tests all year including the ones in which the horses qualify for Regionals, and it takes extra hard to find volunteers to man all those gates In as many as nine or 10 arenas for three or four days which puts extra burden on the show management.
In favor of closing them: We are just following the FEI rules. They close them at the Olympics and the WEG! And of course the best bureaucratic reason of all: that’s the we’ve always done it.
There is actually one nominally valid reason to close the gate. As you probably know, The horse is eliminated if all four of his legs are outside the arena boundary simultaneously. If there is no visible, raised fence at the entrance, on extremely rare occasions it may be impossible for the judge to see if all the legs are over that line at once. Hence the question: is it worth all the nuisance involved to guard against a potential brouhaha related to that unlikely occurrence?
For me the answer is no, it’s not. If it’s that hard to tell, give the rider the benefit of the doubt. If a particular management group wants the formality of a closed ring – for ceremonial purposes or whatever – the rules should let them do that. Either way, there should be no practical alteration to the outcomes, and if a rider by the time she gets to the Regionals can’t keep her horse in the ring without a closed gate, she probably shouldn’t win anyway.