From Endurance to Dressage
Is it Rewarded or Deducted?
Judging is a complicated process. It takes a tremendous amount of work to get a judge's license, and once earned, you have to maintain it. Whenever I have the opportunity, I love to talk to judges about their process; how they feel about this, how they feel about that, what bothers them, what doesn't.
One aspect of judging that I find interesting is the idea of rewarding or deducting. Whether it's true or not, some judges come across as stingy with their points while others seem more generous. At one show my shoulder in might get a 7.0 and at another, I'll get a 5.5.
Sometimes I know why the point discrepancy is there. Speedy's not a machine, and sometimes I don't ride him as well as other times. But sometimes, a movement will feel exactly the same as at a previous show, sometimes even the very next day, yet the score will suggest that the movements were not performed the same at all.
I have heard it said of Hilda Gurney, under whom I have shown more than a few times, that upon entering the ring, she's starting the horse and rider at a 6.0 and judges from that point, going up or down depending on what the rider shows. I understand this to mean that Hilda expects you to ride the test well. She's expecting to reward you for your hard work, and unless you screw things up, you're going to get a good score.
Other judges seem to work from the opposite viewpoint. They watch you enter at A with a 0.0 and expect you to prove that you deserve that 6.0 (or higher). These kinds of judges feel punitive in their scoring. Whether it's right or not, it feels as though you have to work harder for a 6.0 than if you were showing in front of a judge who has already given you that 6.0 and is just hoping you don't blow it it forcing them to give you a 5.5.
This whole idea of earning it or having it taken away popped into my mind last week as I was thinking about my students' overall classroom behavior. I teach 5th grade and currently have 31 kiddos in my class. That's a lot of little bodies to keep engaged, participating, and on task. I have a lot of little systems to help me. One of my favorites is the Three Emojis.
There are three time blocks during the day. We start the day at 7:45 and work until 9:35 where we then have a 15 minute recess. We come back in at 9:50 and work until lunchtime where we have a one hour break. We then work from 1:00 until dismissal which is 2:37. At the end of each time block, I judge whether the class as a whole was engaged and using an appropriate volume level. If so, they earn an emoji for that time block. When the kids earn an emoji, they get to pick a candy from the basket and they earn a check mark. Thirty check marks earns a lunch time party.
Lately, we haven't been earning any emojis. I think spring fever is running rampant through my room right now. Teaching is a profession where flexibility and improvisation are critical to your success, so I asked myself how I could motivate my kids to perform better. The idea of starting with a 6.0 popped into my head.
Instead of asking my kids to earn their emoji, I gave them all three as soon as they stepped through the door. At the end of the time blocks, I evaluated their performance and found that it was much easier to just let the emojis ride. When I was really honest, they hadn't done anything terrible enough to warrant losing them.
Of course, they haven't been keeping all three emojis; even they admit that they do get too noisy and don't deserve the candy and point. It was a good lesson for me though. If we start with a higher expectation in mind, like a 6.0 or an emoji, the student or rider is more likely to meet the expectation. When we start with a 0.0, it's harder to find enough good to warrant that reward.
Since I am not a judge, I can't exactly give myself a 6.5. I can however, enter at A with the expectation that I am getting at least a 6.0 unless I screw up. Maybe with less hoping and more confidence I can push my scores up.
I would love to hear a judge's perspective. Any judges out there?
I'm going through judge training now and it's been fabulous, I highly recommend everyone do Part 1 of the L program, it's not that expensive, only requires three weekends of your time, and is open to literally anyone to do.
3/17/2020 06:27:16 am
Thanks for commenting, Megan. I in no way meant to disparage judges; I recognize that the job they do is very difficult. I have several friends who have done the L program, and yes, it looks like an amazing experience.
3/13/2020 10:28:24 am
Judging is merely an opinion. It can be frustrating, but take it with a certain grain of salt. There's a reason people become dressage judges. :)
Agree to disagree as someone on the inside. I've had to put aside a lot of my opinions to be a better judge. There is a massive amount of education and testing that goes into becoming a dressage judge. I'm becoming a judge not to be a judgmental shrew (you don't need to be a judge to be one of those!) but because I love this sport and want to be an advocate for the horse and uphold the standards put forth by the FEI and the USDF.
3/17/2020 06:17:56 am
Karen, I agree and try not to take it personally. And actually, I never feel as though I've been judged TOO harshly. Most of the time I feel as though my scores are pretty close, but some judges do seem to forgive some things more than others.
3/14/2020 05:01:09 pm
Not a judge, but I am a teacher. My students walk in the door with four points and, since they know the expectations, most of them keep all four. I strive to act as referee more than a judge. I like your emoji idea.
3/17/2020 06:19:29 am
Riding a non-warmblood is a different experience for sure. Speedy is quite light on his feet, so he earns respectable scores. I do wonder if the 7 on gaits I am proud of would be a regular 8 if I rode a fancier horse. LOL
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
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