The Dressage Judging Working Group (DJWG) charged a group of relevant experts to produce a more simplified ‘Code of Points’ relating to Dressage judging which could be used to identify the essence of each of the Grand Prix movements, and to then translate them into clear and transparent scores that could be more easily understood by everyone involved within the sport i.e. athletes, trainers, judges, media, TV commentators and general public.
I was then asked by the FEI to chair this Code of Points Working Group which is made up of the ‘Dressage Judges Education Group’ (5* Judges Katrina Wust, Maribel Alonso, Hans Christian Matthiesen and myself) and includes the vastly experienced Kyra Kirkland, David Hunt and Richard Davison.
One would imagine that this would be a fairly simple task..! But once we started, it very quickly became obvious that this was far from the case…
Our reference guides are the FEI rules themselves, which describe the criteria of the ideals of each and every movement, and the ‘Dressage Handbook, Guidelines for Judges” which describes, in much detail, how to award the relevant scores for each movement from 0 to 10.
As everyone involved in Dressage knows, there are inevitably many different situations that can occur within each of the exercises that can sometimes, correctly, lead to the same mark being awarded….
Sometimes a horse shows high quality, but makes a small mistake, or another horse can be mistake-free but lack quality within the movement.
A very simple example can be made relating to certain problems that can occur in the collected walk:
Comment – ‘Mostly in good rhythm, but jogged a couple of steps’ – score 4/5
(depending on how much control was lost, or how quickly it was regained..)
Comment – ‘Controlled steps, but lacking suppleness , and not always in clear four-beat rhythm’ – score 4/5 (again, depending on how much quality of rhythm was lost)
So the complexity of the task begins….
Often both athletes and judges are taken by surprise by some imaginative tactics that horses can invent!
But, the athlete and judge have to react within a split second, and be able to recognize with a ‘feeling for horsemanship’ how best to handle the situation.
Even though the Dressage Handbook itself does in fact already cover most ‘normal’ eventualities, and has naturally been studied and absorbed by all officiating judges. It does appear that it can be considered to be rather ‘heavy reading’ for many within the sport who are not required to deal with the arduous task of actually judging the tests movement by movement.
So it would seem sensible and inclusive to try to produce a more simplified/basic version as a Code of Points that would be more readily understood by the general public, tv commentators et al. And then for the judges to use the Handbook as a reference guide for the finer details, which was always its intention in the first place.
In summary, our main task is to attempt to produce a document that helps to pinpoint and clarify the reasons for the marks that should be awarded, but without, in any way changing our very established principles of judging, which the FEI has striven to ingrain into each and every judge in a clear and positive manner for many decades now, to the undoubted benefit of our sport.
FEI Judge General.