The FEI Dressage Task Force has made the commitment to update the dressage judging system, and they took a big step forward on September 7-9, 2009 at the Judging Systems Trials in Aachen, Germany. Five different trials were conducted.
The first trial, devised by David Strickland and Wayne Channon, concentrated on making each judge’s task unique. Each judge was asked to score two components of the training scale, which included: impulsion and rhythm, contact and submissiveness, collection and suppleness and precision and straightness.
The first trial also had judges at the five standard positions (E, H, C, M, B) to use as reference scores, with additional judges on the short side by A. This tested the idea of having seven judges instead of five and dropping the high and low score, as well as the difference between five judges’ scores counting and seven judges’ scores counting.
The second trial utilized half points (.5) due to many judges wanting to give a “big 7” or “little 8” score. It took some time to adapt to the system, but according to Eurodressage.com, the judges were very enthusiastic about it and considered it easy to apply to the current system.
A closed session with O-Judge Katrina Wüst followed the first three trials, where Wüst proposed a new system to judge freestyles. Before their test, a rider would have to indicate an initial degree of difficulty and build upon it through well-executed and correct movements.
Another proposed change to freestyle judging was to split the tasks of judging, with some judges scoring the technical aspect of the test, and the others the artistic merit.
“The most positive thing about this is that those judges doing the artistic judging could, for the very first time, sit back and have the luxury of simply watching the entire test before giving marks for that part of the performance,” Robert Dover stated on his website.
The second day of trials debuted with a panel of ten judges with divided tasks. Five gave marks for movements and five gave marks for the collectives. This trial separated the scoring into five categories: walk, trot, and canter, submission, execution of the movements, rider’s seat and overall performance.
In the fourth trial, Wüst’s freestyle ideas were tested. Four judges were at H, C, M and B and marked the technical aspect and three judges at B, between C and H, and between C and M scored the artistic portion. All seven judges used half points.
The final trial tested putting the judges closer together with five on the long side and five on the short side of the arena. Changing the angles of the traditional judging boxes was also tested, with two judges at M and H instead of on the short side corners.
“Everyone felt the three days brought extremely positive results,” said Dover. “We had wonderful discussions between the judges, the Task Force, and the FEI staff, especially in regard to the positive results of creating a Judges Supervisory Panel for major competitions, which will offer oversight to ensure there will always be fair, competent, and honest officiating.”
The trials themselves were open to the public and media and gathered over 20 FEI I-level and O-level judges from around the world. The final results and analyses of the scores will be presented to the FEI at the General Assembly in Copenhagen, Denmark on Nov. 12-15 before they are released to the public.