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  1. #1
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    Default Is Dressage Judging becoming more confusing?

    When I look at the scores from shows and qualifiers both here and in Europe I really have to wonder if we aren't getting fruit salad - i.e. apples and oranges. When we see scores of 65% and above (some in Grand Prix) for rides by both rider/horse combinations who are ranked at the top of the sport AND rider/horse combinations who are amateur riders on school masters - are the judges seeing the same qualify of movement in both instances?? I'm not trying to imply we don't have excellent Amateur riders who have well trained horses but are judges giving a 6 or 7 when they would NOT give a 6 or 7 to professionals?

    And if there is a difference in the level of expectation each judge places on Amateur versus Professional doesn't this create a great deal of confusion with respect to what a score tells us about the ride? I ask this now that the USDF is proposing minimum scores for moving up the levels and the debate it has created.

    We've all watched rides at all levels that seem to be examples of what the sport should NOT be but we all have probably seen some rides that didn't score what we expected - perhaps because the person was not well known.

    Just curious what others think about this. I see judging in the sport and in the Young Horse and Breeding Division that is increasing more disconnected and very often hard to understand.
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  2. #2
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    I am not sure I agree with the differentiation between Amateurs and Professionals. We have some excellent professionals and then some "not so" excellent Professionals. We have some excellent Amateurs and then some "not so" excellent Amateurs. There are some Amatuers that work full time at the sport of dressage and could outride many professionals I know.



  3. #3
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    I'm completely with ltw on this as far as judging amateurs vs. pros is concerned.
    Comparing scores for dressage tests with those given at young horse competitions or breed shows is indeed an apples to oranges comparison since different "things" are being scored.

    So I guess I don't quite see your point, Ilona.
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  4. #4
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    I don't think the problem is related to classes where riders are well known vs not well known, or amateur or professional, for that matter.

    A friend recently showed her nice but green Arabian (Training Level) at a recognized show under two "R" judges. The comments were almost identical (as were the rides) but the scores were off by a fairly wide margin (a 4, 5s and a couple of 6s from one judge... 5s, 6s, 7s and an 8 from the other).
    Patience pays.



  5. #5
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    depending on where the judge is sitting he will be able to see or not see certain things. that's why there's multiple judges sitting on one test and their scores are averaged for the results.

    but if scores vary from judge to judge for different tests, it's entirely possible that the different scores were deserved and accurate, and the rider did a different quality movement each time. a green horse is especially likely to perform the movements differently in different tests, even if the tests are on the same day.

    we seem to assume that any time there's a question the judge is wrong; that isn't always the case



  6. #6
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    OK - maybe I wasn't clear. If I see a score of 65% at Grand Prix for a person that I know is not a super rider and they are riding a school master - how can they be scoring that high when some top riders on top horses are just a few points above that. The person was in an AA class - FEI of choice. Do judges tend to be a little more generous for FEI classes with AA riders?
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  7. #7
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    I see the OP's point, but I don't think it is always related to AA or being well known. The fact is that all 65%'s are not created equal. As someone else pointed out, the number of judges makes a huge difference. Usually scoring is lower with multiple judges. This is another reason why HOY ranking is a bit unfair. People riding in Florida with top competition and multiple judges have their scores compared with somone that did a local show in the Midwest with an easy judge. (Don't say it doesn't happen....it definitely does). I remember one year when two AA's were almost tied for either I2 or GP. I knew both of these horses/riders and there was a world of difference between them.

    Devon is another example where you see how goofy scoring is. There are people qualifying for Devon with high 60's; even 70+ and then they end up at the bottom of the class with low 50's and I've even seen scores in the 40's. There is almost no excuse for getting a score in the 40's at Devon; it means you should not have qualified IMO.

    I DO think the AA classes are judged more leniently, even if the judges claim they are not.



  8. #8
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    I agree with much of what has been written here. The other thing that needs to be added into the mix is that many judges have not trained a horse from the very beginning. They do not recognize some of the fatal flaws in the training because of this, and hence reward things that should really go punished. One of my really big, bug-a-boos, are the 6's and 7's given for those "stretchy circles" in which the horse is just dropping the neck and not really stretching. This is a fatal flaw, and should be punished with a 3 or 4 because the correctness is not being demonstrated. In fact, the movement is not even being demonstrated, so maybe it should be a zero.



  9. #9
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    Most of the judges HAVE trained quite a few horses and have trained and competed at the levels they are judging. There are a few notable exceptions, but that's what they are; exceptions.

    why ASSUME the judge isn't judging correctly? Why not consider teh possibility that there's another reason.

    Ok. An amateur on a schoolmaster got a 65% in a Grand Prix class.

    And you don't think she rode well enough to deserve it.

    Well, an amateur with good instruction who practices quite hard, and has an easy, reliable, cooperative schoolmaster, might do very well. The amateur might have a lot of experience riding at lower levels, and there's 'nothing new after third level', once you have reached that level you know all the basic concepts. It's still a lot of work to get from there to GP, and for all you know the rider really paid his dues working very hard very often with his coach.

    And a good horse can really help. I know GP schoolmasters that are just murder to ride and never score well because there are defects in their training, and ones that quite often go out there and if the person doesn't get too wierd with them they are going to do pretty well.

    That's still not easy, and it's not 'cheating' to learn on a trained horse, actually, it's the classical ideal of how to learn the upper levels.

    Too, maybe you don't understand where the rider gets the points. It's very easy to get mad watching who wins if you don't follow how the judge is scoring.

    Some of the errors you may have seen could have been really minor ones.

    Some horses are 'crowd pleasers'. They go out there and look perky, or they're an unusual size, color or breed, and everyone likes them. That doesn't mean the 'plain' horses should score low. They're scored on technical aspects of doing the test, not crowd appeal. 'Personality', 'style', etc doesn't mean much.

    You can also be very sure that 99% of spectators have a very, very different view of how one should ride than the judge does.

    Spectators often complain if the rider isn't a frozen statue; the judge views that very, very differently. Does the rider jerk the reins and get 'criminal' status with the audience. Maybe so, but the judge may see this as a necessary and effective correction.

    If the rider bounces in the saddle, he may not see it as a lack of basic ability, he may see what's really going on - a lack of suppleness, a momentary tipping onto the forehand that tightens the horse's back, or just a huge moving horse that the rider is being loose, soft and following.

    Spooking, especially between the movements, may not affect the score of any movement at all. Being excited, even restless, isn't that bad either. Alot of GP horses are extremely eager and excited and score very well.

    As an example, you lose much more points for stepping back in the piaffe than you would for stepping too forward. Stepping too much forward is a fault, but a much more minor one.

    You lose far fewer faults if the horse doesn't lift his knees up to his chin or sit like a dog in piaffe than many people think. The basic points in the piaffe come from the real basics - a diagonal, trot like gait, with a desire to go forward, an overall steady rhythm. In fact, an extreme sitting position is usually incorrect and due to a loss of balance, it also makes the transitions in and out of the piaffe have serious problems in most cases.

    The rhythm and evenness in piaffe are important, but even so, a few funny steps isn't going to blow the whole thing, as long as the majority of the steps are good.

    As another example, you may lose very little by doing a large pirouette, but you would lose a lot more points for doing a very small pirouette and losing the canter rhythm. Keep the canter rhythm, get around, the score will be pretty good.

    These are just examples. Getting a better idea of what the judge's training is like really helps to understand scoring.



  10. #10
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    slc2 - Judges have to ride and compete for the qualifications but I'm not so sure your comment that most have trained horses is true. We see up and coming judges all the time who are constantly BUYING horses at the next levels so they can get their qualifying scores to move up the ranks in judging. Trainers are riding them most of the time to keep their skills sharp.

    I just wonder see such disparity in scores and I'm very aware that judges are sitting at different locations an can see movement differently for scoring but sometimes the range of scores is 2 or more points. I also see a difference in what European judges score compared to many US judges - can someone explain that?
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Melissa.Hare.Jones View Post

    A friend recently showed her nice but green Arabian (Training Level) at a recognized show under two "R" judges. The comments were almost identical (as were the rides) but the scores were off by a fairly wide margin (a 4, 5s and a couple of 6s from one judge... 5s, 6s, 7s and an 8 from the other).
    I've noticed that too. Here in Arkansas, the show organizers will only hire judges that give inflated scores. If you want an easy qualifying score, come show here, LOL!! I see rides that should have gotten no higher than a 55% (and that's being generous) end up with a 60%...
    "To be an equestrian in the classical sense is not just to be a rider.
    It is a position in life." --Charles de Kunffy



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ise@ssl View Post

    I just wonder see such disparity in scores and I'm very aware that judges are sitting at different locations an can see movement differently for scoring but sometimes the range of scores is 2 or more points. I also see a difference in what European judges score compared to many US judges - can someone explain that?
    IMO (and my opinion is VERY amateur, but I am a good observer ) is that our level of American trained amateur riders (in general) is not even close to that of more serious European amateurs. So, the judging in turn has also been "lowered", maybe to not discourage these riders, or maybe out of pure ignorance. I don't know why, but I have also noticed the trend of inflated scores from many US judges and the poor riding of US competitors, even those claiming to be "professionals"... There are no required credentials or licensing required for trainers, so anyone can claim to be one, even if they have no business training or instructing anyone...

    There has to be some reason for it, and that's all I can think of that makes sense.
    "To be an equestrian in the classical sense is not just to be a rider.
    It is a position in life." --Charles de Kunffy



  13. #13
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    Perhaps some 'up and coming' dressage judges have less experience, but no one becomes an R or S judge without making their way through some pretty hefty requirements. I think Linda Zang, Hilda Gurney, Carol Lavel, Mike Poulin, Sharon Poulin and many, many other judges have extensive experience training horses.



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by slc2 View Post
    Perhaps some 'up and coming' dressage judges have less experience, but no one becomes an R or S judge without making their way through some pretty hefty requirements. I think Linda Zang, Hilda Gurney, Carol Lavel, Mike Poulin, Sharon Poulin and many, many other judges have extensive experience training horses.
    True, but most American judges are training American Dressage horses...
    "To be an equestrian in the classical sense is not just to be a rider.
    It is a position in life." --Charles de Kunffy



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