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Dressage judging question

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  • Dressage judging question

    Ok, I know that some of you may say, "why not post this in dressage"? But I am afraid of folks in that forum, sometimes. ;-)

    My trainer's mare went novice in a well-run unrecognized HT yesterday. She had a lifetime best ever test and scored 29.6, and this mare does not give away the dressage. Overall, trainer was thrilled.

    Mare has a quirk, which the judge marked her down for, and I would like someone to explain what this quirk really has to do with her submission. The mare consistently sticks her tongue out the side of her mouth. She nearly always does this during flatwork, and has for years. If anything, for her, it's a sign that she's working and paying attention. the judge gave a 6 for submission, and explicitly noted on the test that the reason for the 6 was that her tongue was sticking out.

    Mare does her flatwork in a loose ring snaffle. Her teeth have been done this year, the bridle seems to fit her fine, and no one thinks this is a manifestation of some physical problem. It's just what she does. Trainer has considered putting a crank noseband on her to make it more difficult for mare to stick her tongue out, but has so far decided not to because it would probably just piss her off. ;-)

    Why shouldn't submission be judged solely on the way the horse moves and responds to the aids? Why should something as seemingly peripheral figure into the submission score? I just think being marked down for a tongue hanging out, in a test where the judge consistently liked everything else the horse did, is silly. It's this kind of thing that makes otherwise generously inclined folks think that dressage is dubiously subjective and silly.

    Just my $0.02 worth.
    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

  • #2
    As I understand it, sticking tongue out is considered an evasion of the bit.
    OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!


    • #3
      I've dealt with a couple of horses with this quirk, and yes, often it's just a habit and nothing that is indicating that the horse is unhappy.

      That said, the rule is the rule, and this horse will always be marked down for it. To score the equivalent of a 70% with a tongue consistently out is spectacular, because it will typically be a -1 or -2 on every movement.

      Having dealt with it, and watched others deal with it, I can say that if the horse has her tongue out all the time with a bit, there's likely nothing that can be done with any noseband. I've seen people even try a tongue tie to see if it would break the habit (illegal in competition) and it didn't.

      One of the horses was a three year old when I met him, tongue out. I randomly saw him at a clinic 15 years later... tongue still out. :-)

      So, I suggest just making the best of it. The other option would be to move her to jumpers, where it won't be a factor.
      If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


      • #4
        I competed a mare for a number of years with this fault.I, personally, never cracked a 35 on my mare...partially because of the tongue and partially because I was under 18 for her whole career.

        I never found anything that kept her tongue in her mouth. Asked everyone who would listen for suggestions.

        I did a clinic with Jimmy Wofford when I was competing her prelim... I asked him if I should try to sell her as a jumper or continue my young riders career on the tongue mare..

        Basically he said that she was a safe and careful jumper and at 16 years old that's all I could ask for. So, in all, I got several years of great experience on the mare... but never did well in dressage.
        Yes, I ride a pony. No, he would not be ideal for your child. No, he is not a re-sale project...


        • Original Poster

          Yeah, I figured it was being considered an evasion of the bit, but I still think that's not well-founded. I mean, if the animal is doing what it is being asked to do, with correct aids, etc., then who cares where her tongue is?
          I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
          I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


          • #6
            It is quite possible that the judge felt the same way you did -- it is a habit that did not truly affect submission and did not mark down as much as another judge may have for the tongue issue.

            Frankly, I'm not a fan of "automatic" penalties, so if this was the case, I applaud the judge.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Lori B View Post
              Yeah, I figured it was being considered an evasion of the bit, but I still think that's not well-founded. I mean, if the animal is doing what it is being asked to do, with correct aids, etc., then who cares where her tongue is?
              This and the tendency to believe a lot of foam at the mouth is always a good thing are two of my biggest dressage peeves.

              Yes, a tongue sticking out CAN be an indication of evasion, but it's not an evasion flat across the board.

              Yes a foamy mouth CAN indicate a horse moving nicely, on the bit, etc. However, some of the most resistant, hardest pulling horses I've met have foamy mouths, and some wonderfully soft horses in self-carriage have practically no saliva.
              If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


              • #8
                I have one.
                I asked a Dressage judge about it, her response;

                Tongue out can be an issue that is difficult to stop. The reality is that it should not be that much of a fault if there is not tension issues in other ways....but some judges are a real stickler on this, others like me are not??? Happy to take a peep see for you....

                I still like the horse and just let him do it & live w/ the occasional lower mark.


                • #9
                  I have a 4y ottb that sticks her tongue out and sucks on it like a pacifier when she's focused, soft and happy. She sucks in rhythm to her gait. And it's funny that when she's being resistant (as she is just recently restarted under saddle after a ten month lay off after racing) is when the tongue goes inside her mouth and that's when she braces and gets cranky! As soon as she's soft and accepting, out comes the tongue pacifier! Im Hoping she'll be my " next great eventer" though in reality she's still so green so we'll see! I agree that judges should take into account the overall picture and harmony....


                  • #10
                    Agreed that the whole picture should be taken into account. It sounds like, from her score, that the judge DID take into account the entire, relaxed picture, and only penalized her in the "submission" category. I recently won my BN HT on my dressage score of 31, with a pretty tough judge. My horse still has a tendency to come behind the vertical, especially in the walk, and we got hit by a "6" in submission for the two time he came behind the vertical in the walk work - the rest were 7s and 8s (well, there was an error of test, but it was mine). I'd give the judge the benefit of the doubt. The judge has to score down for that tongue - given two horses with identical tests, one with a flapping tongue, and one without, the one without is going to win, fair or no. That's why Lucinda Green is so adamant about taking out the dressage quotient of an HT - it's all so subjective.
                    Last edited by eventer_mi; Apr. 11, 2011, 11:27 AM. Reason: inablity to spell
                    "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

                    So, the Zen Buddhist says to the hotdog vendor, "Make me one with everything."


                    • Original Poster

                      If a horse hanging out their tongue is a submission issue, I would ask, what is the aid / correction to ask them not to do it? I don't think there is one, other than various noseband type solutions that don't work consistently and would, I think, fall in the category of 'using gadgets to get around not being able to train your horse'.

                      I understand that there seems to be some kind of rule, but I'm saying, it's a silly rule, and not well-correlated to the problem it claims to represent.
                      I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                      I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09