I have been troubled by scores lately. I want higher scores like everyone else, but more than that, I need to know what the scores really mean. It is very difficult as a teacher to earn a score that I consider the equivalent of failing. In my classroom, anything less than 80% says you didn't try your best. Truly internalizing (and believing) that 60% is not a failing dressage test score has been very difficult for me. If 60% isn't failing, what is? And if 60% is passing, are all those riders who earn 70%+ scores the equivalent of the Gifted and Talented kids, equestrian geniuses if you will?
To answer my question, I did some more Googling, which most of the time only yields more confusion than answers. In this case though, I stumbled across an interesting website with some really helpful articles. I am not sure what the site is actually called (Classical Dressage Notebook?) as there is no Home page, but here is a link to the page I am referencing.
Here's what the author, Sue Morris, has to say about scores:
"Firstly, let’s look at what is a good dressage score. As a rule of thumb we can say that:
Adequate - 50+%
Very Good - 60+%
Exceptional - 70+%"
If this is the understood breakdown of test scores, then Speedy G and I are in good shape! I've been under the impression that the hacks (like me) were scoring 60% while the real riders were getting the 70% scores. Very good sounds very good to me!
"The judge scores each movement on the test sheet out of 10 and the standard definitions for these marks are:
10 Excellent------ Very rarely given. It means as good as it gets.
9 Very Good------Not often awarded; you can be very proud when they appear on your score sheet.
8 Good------------ An appropriate level of engagement for the level.
7 Fairly Good------Still a good mark, maybe a minor inaccuracy prevented an 8 being given.
6 Satisfactory----The movement was obedient and accurate, marred by outline, perhaps.
5 Sufficient--------Horse did what he should, but maybe lacking engagement or on the forehand.
4 Insufficient-----A serious inaccuracy occurred; counter bent; rough transition; head tossing.
3 Fairly Bad-------A serious problem occurred; lack of control, very late or fluffed transitions.
2 Bad---------------Now we’re talking severe disobedience; bucking; rearing; napping.
1 Very Bad---------The horse must have bolted through the movement to receive this!
0 Not Performed---Self explanatory. Horse didn’t perform any of the required movement e.g. failing to strike off in left canter and continuing on in trot."
While I have seen the scores explained before, I even have a chart here, I've never seen further comments like these. These seem right on the mark and offer more clarification. After reading this, my goal of eliminating 5s on my score sheet seems like a good one.
It appears as if the score of 5 is where the comments begin to take on a negative quality. So it makes sense that scores in the 50 - 59% range would be considered only marginally adequate. If it is at the 6s where the positive properties begin, then 60%+ would be considered "passing." The higher your score, of course, the more passing it becomes. If 60% scores are very good, then it does ring true that scores of 70% and higher are exceptional.
This relieves some of my personal angst over my recent run of 60%+ scores. My scores in the high 50s have always felt disappointing. The problem is that my scores in the 60s haven't felt successful either. I couldn't understand how both USDF and CDS could use 60% as a baseline for awards and recognition programs if it was a failing or marginal grade. I feel much better about those 60%+ scores now. I can live with very good.
Sue Morris (read about her here)