Janet Foy is in an elite group of Fédération Equestre Internationale five-star judges in the United States. Five-star judges, the highest level, officiate at major championships such as the Olympic Games, as well as at lower-level competitions.
Foy has judged all the major U.S. dressage competitions, including the U.S. Dressage Festival Of Champions, the FEI North American Youth Championships, and selection trials for major international championships, as well as judging extensively abroad.
A U.S. Dressage Federation gold medalist, Foy also sits on the U.S. Equestrian Federation International Disciplines Council and the Dressage Sport Committee.
Foy, 68, Wellington, Florida, recently officiated at the FEI Stillpoint Farm Nations Cup CDIO during Week 10 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, held March 16 – 21, and she shared the details of her week.
Monday, March 15: The first order of business is to set up a WhatsApp group for all the judges. [We can have] instant communication about pick-up times and schedule changes.
When I judge in Wellington, Florida, I stay in my own home! Such a joy, as judges spend many nights in hotel rooms. Pre-COVID, we would be picked up from the airport in a minivan and driven to the hotel, where we unpack and make plans for dinner.
The second order of business is to check the weather. Then the packing, or, in my case, the selection of clothes begins.
Anne Devine is our judge mother superior for all shows run here in Wellington and also shows in Tryon, North Carolina. She makes dinner reservations and makes sure everyone has pick-up times etc. With COVID, she is now in charge of picking up a lot of takeout and bringing it back to the hotel, where we go to the pool area and dine outside.
Tuesday, March 16: Today is jog day. The horses are presented to the ground jury and the veterinary panel for soundness.
The president of the ground jury has the final say on whether the horse will compete or not. If there’s a question, the FEI veterinarian will discuss with the president, and they will usually send the horse to the holding area, where the treating vet will examine the horse. The treating vet has hoof testers but isn’t allowed to do flexion tests.
The treating vet will come back with their findings to the FEI vet and the president of the ground jury. They will then re-jog the horse and either pass the horse, fail the horse—which means the horse can’t compete—or they will hold the horse for re-inspection the next morning.
The decision will be made with the welfare of the horse in mind, and no horse with an obvious injury will be allowed to compete.
In the U.S., the competitors like to dress up for this presentation. There is usually a prize for the best-presented horse. This is not the case in Europe, where the jog is more casual and isn’t attended by the spectators (but in COVID times no spectators are allowed).
After the jog, it’s time for the draw. Depending on the type of competition, the draw might differ. The FEI ranking list comes into play for most draws. Those with no ranking will fill the first spots in the order, and then riders will be drawn in groups of five in order of the rankings, so the highest-ranked go last.
This competition is also a CDIO, which is a team event. This draw is different. Here the first draw by the chef d’equipe is for the starting position. For example, if there are 10 teams, then 1-10 will be put into the bowl. The chefs give the organizer their team “go” order. So the No. 1 rider will go in the first rotation. The second will go in the next rotation after all 10 have ridden in the first rotation, etc. Individual riders (those with no team) are drawn first.
Wednesday, March 17: I usually get up early enough that I have two hours to have my coffee and read the newspapers. (We get USA Today and The Palm Beach Post.) I have a 10-minute drive from my house to the showgrounds, and I like to arrive 30 minutes early. I don’t usually eat breakfast, as I am not hungry until about 10 a.m. So I take a piece of fruit with me or grab something at the VIP tent.
The scribes at Global are stellar, and I don’t need to go early to work with them or introduce myself. At other shows where I am not familiar with the scribes, I will have a chat with them about:
2. Scores first, then comments
With the computer, the scribe will type in the ending comments, and there is an electronic signature on file. Where we are using paper tests, I will write my own end comments and sign the test, so the scribe can check the number of the next rider and have a moment to relax.
Today is the Grand Prix for the CDI3*. This class is for the riders that have declared to go to the Grand Prix Special. A three-star will have five judges, with no more than two from the same country.
This is also the day of the team competition for the U25 riders. Canada squeaks out a win over the USA by .7 percent.
The CDIO for seniors has a mix of Grand Prix and small tour horses. The Grand Prix horses receive a bonus of 2% over the score received. Today saw a very strong German team in the Prix St. Georges. In a CDIO, there are five judges, but all must be different nationalities. There must be a certain number of five-star judges, and a four-star judge is permitted but no three-star judges.
The final class today is the Grand Prix for the CDIO. Grand Prix riders from all of the teams compete today. The team competition is a combination of scores from the two technical tests (Grand Prix/Grand Prix Special or Prix St. Georges/Intermediaire I) with the freestyle being ridden for individual medals.
Today I judge at B and E, which are the booths where we see the contact, balance and quality of the gaits and collection. From the front, the judges see bend, straightness and accuracy in relation to the centerline.
Each booth has a job to do, and often scores are a bit different if, for example, the horse has the tongue out of the left side of the mouth. Here a judge will deduct points only when he or she has a clear view.
Thursday, March 18: The CDIO for seniors team competition concludes today with individual medals awarded on Friday night. The judge at C is expected to be at the awards ceremony and pose for photos and congratulate the riders with now a fist bump. No more handshakes!
During the day, we have scheduled breaks between riders and classes. Breaks at CDIs are used for the panel to discuss differences and get a quick cup of coffee. Judging on a panel is much more stressful than alone. Luckily there are also more ring drags and breaks for awards.
We eat our meals in the VIP tent, which has delicious food, although the way it is being served has changed. No more buffet.
I really miss our wonderful group dinners each night, going out to a wonderful restaurant. Even though Florida is totally open, the judges are still very careful about dining inside, and we avoid large groups.
This season, I usually come home and have dinner with my husband. He would normally accompany the group out to the restaurant in pre-COVID times.
The Europeans are always up for a trip to the beach and getting some sun, especially since they are totally locked down with curfews.
Friday, March 19: The freestyles at Global and all CDI-Ws (World Cup events) are using the degree of difficulty floorplan system of judging. Each rider works with Black Horse One technology and gives them their choreography. The computer assigns difficulties, and then this floorplan is entered into the judges’ computers.
We then will know exactly what the rider has planned. We have to accept or not accept their difficulty. For example: If they say they are doing double pirouettes into two-tempi changes, and there are 10 strides of canter in between, the judge will not accept the difficulty.
For difficulty to count, the score must be a 7 or higher. A 5 or below decreases the difficulty. There are also joker lines where the rider lists three choices: They will ride whichever movement they may have had a problem with in the test.
So the judge does not need to worry about this score anymore; the computer takes care of it. The artistic side must balance with the technical side.
The freestyles are the most fun to judge but also the most challenging for the judge. There’s a lot to think about through the performance, as we are giving technical marks as well as making notes for our artistic marks. And we must have marks in quickly so they come up for the audience before the rider leaves the arena! This system allows us to send the marks and then make our final comments.