Webinar: How do judges score dressage tests?

On Friday, June 5, Equestrian Canada hosted a very interesting webinar on how judges score dressage tests and also on gave us an outline of the EC “Am I Ready” program. Judge Joan Macartney was introduced and then took us through how judges judge dressage tests.

“Scoring is really complicated.” Joan told us. “Riders are spending a lot of money on horses, training and competition. So they deserve  good scoring.” She explained that all judges must know the Equestrian Canada rules notably Article 9.7 that advises judging the correct training and quality and the level of the test must be remembered. Joan then had us take a look at First Level test 1. The test then came up on our screens. She told us that it was important to first look at the purpose of the test and then the directives. She said that when the rider sees the directives it will be clear that the judge has a lot to consider. The rider can identify the essence of the movement . The transitions in and out of movements can be the modifiers when it comes to giving a score.

Next Joan told us that we should be aware of the Scale of Marks. Each movment can be given a score from 0 to 10. Joan told us what each score represents and what she felt shoud be seen for that score to be awarded.

10  Excellent ” Everyone should try to achieve a ten .” Joan said. ” That score is given when the judge can’t  imagine the movement being done any better.”

9. Very Good. Joan said :”Most of the movement has been excellent but some little piece ,perhaps a transition ,is a bit off.”

8. Good Joan gives an 8 is given when she is satisfied with the movement but perhaps the execution is not as precise as a 9 or 10.

7. Fairly Good. This means the movement needs more consistency. But Joan told us that a test with consistent 7s is a pretty nice test.

6. Satisfactory  This score covers many aspects. The movement is basically correct but there maybe some inaccuracies.

5. Sufficient Joan said this means the movement has been respectable but lacking in something basic. She describes this as a Borderline score

4. Insufficient. This score indicated something went wrong. Perhaps jogging in the walk or breaking pace in another gait..

3. Fairly Bad This means resistance has been shown.

2. Bad Serious resistance or inability to complete the movement.

1.Very bad

0 not executed.

Once we had been through the scores Joan said: “I really encourage riders to go for those high marks! They are out there and ready to be had on your sheet.” She told us that judges were encouraged to use the whole scale of marks. “If things go awry we must reflect that.” She also explained that the half marks were introduced 6 or 7 years ago and have been welcomed by riders and judges alike.

The Coefficients. Often if a movement is introduced for the first time it will get a co-efficient ( score x 2) Or they may be given for an important movement in a test. Riders should note where they are and give extra preparation to those movements.

The Collective marks. These provides a valuable feedback to the rider.

Finally Joan said the judge must consider, when giving scores for the Collectives, “Is this rider effective ?” “Is the rider in harmony with the horse.” “Has the training scale been observed?”

The Second Part of the Webinar examined Equestrian Canada’s AM I READY program. This is a program devised for educational purposes. Riders submit a video of a test and each movement will be judged but there will be no final score. This program provides a great way for riders to prepare for competition. The judges comments can be shared with the rider’s coach . The program is free of charge to EC members who hold an EC Sport License.

Celine Hutchinson Majerus, who is the EC Dressage Coordinator, explained the program and gave us some tips on how to present the video. She gave us suggestions on video quality and things to consider for the video. For example don’t wear black clothing, on a black horse, against a dark background. Use a tripod to keep camera steady. Letters must be clear and start the video 5 seconds before rider comes down centerline. End 5 seconds after the final halt. No coaching. It must simulate a show environment. But the rider can use a caller. Boots and bandages may be worn. “Am I Ready” rules follow Equestrian Canada Section E Dressage.

Joan Macartney also gave us some tips on the videoing. She suggested that the video person be about 5 ft behind letter C. She also told us that when she is judging a live event she can feel the energy of a ride but that is more difficult watching a video. However if the quality of the video is good then she could pick up that energy level better.

Celine gave information on how to submit the video via You Tube and to post the video as “unlisted ” so it cannot be seen by the general public. There are instructions on the EC website that detail how to submit the video link. Tests may be from Training level up to FEI. Once the video has been registered by EC Celine she will find a judge to look at it and it may take 2 to 3 weeks before the judging is completed.

Joan spoke about how she likes to watch the video on full screen and have a paper copy of the test sheet to put down her scores. She also thinks the program works really well. “It is a great assessment of training,” she said.

Celine told us that you can submit the same test again or submit a test of a higher level . Both Celine and Joan agreed that a different set of eyes looking at your riding can be very helpful. They also stressed it was important to “treat it like the real thing!”

Finally Joan and Celine responded to a series of questions submitted by people viewing the Webinar. One question asked how the judges looked at the different levels of shows in Canada : Bronze, Silver and Gold. Joan said that judges adhere to the rules, “Dressage judging is dressage judging,” she said. But we try to be more encouraging at the Bronze level to encourage people. We hope they will come back.”

I had entered a question. I had my smaller and my larger laptop going so I could take notes as well as watch the Webinar. My question was about collective marks at the FEI levels. The only collective mark is for the rider; riders position, correctness and effectiveness of the aids. What are they looking for in this?

Joan replied:” At these levels it is so important that the rider rides forward with harmony. The FEI is looking to change to a General Impression mark. We may see that coming and that will be an all encompassing mark.”

Celine closed the webinar with the final news that all EC coaches can claim the Webinar hour as part of their professional certification hours.

A very informative hour with a lot of useful information. The ‘Am I Ready’ program is an excellent avenue for dressage riders and I’m sure many will take advantage of it.

Thank you to Joan,Celine and Equestrian Canada for an excellent Webinar.


4 responses to “Webinar: How do judges score dressage tests?”

  1. Subbashini Meenakshi Sundaram Avatar

    It is good to know on what basis they judge riders, only a true judge will tell that I think. in reality life people judge others on their own 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      I think Joan Macartney is a very fair judge. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment .


  2. Emma Cownie Avatar

    I got nervous just reading about how they will score riders!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen Avatar

      Haha! Well it is a judged sport so I’ve got used to that. Joan Macartney is a pretty nice judge and a fair one.

      Liked by 1 person

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