Q. Betsy, Oviedo, Florida
Because climbing the dressage levels becomes so difficult at Third Level, where collection starts, do you think there is a way to bridge this gap of understanding? Do you think dressage shows could offer lectures given by the judges on what collection is and how we must intricately put together the tests that require collection? Or do you think that job needs to stay with the trainers and coaches?
A. Dear Betsy,
Collection actually begins at second level. If you read the purpose on the top of the tests, it states that an "uphill tendency" is required. Judges expect the collection to come and go a bit at second level. In the 2003 tests, our U.S. Equestrian Federation Test writing committee felt the need to introduce movements that would help riders with collection. Hence, the introduction of simple changes instead of the old changes of lead through the trot.
Since these tests were changed in 2003 and improved for 2007, the committee members agree that the level of collection has also been improved. We have also discussed adding another level to bridge the gap between second and third level, but with all of the awards this would be "mission impossible." A good rule to follow is if you can score consistently above 63 percent at the highest test of the level, then you are ready to move into the next level.
Regarding the second part of your question, I think that judges and coaches need to speak the same language. Steffen Peters and I have been doing judge/trainer seminars across the USA to help promote this topic. These have been well received from coast to coast.
Q. Karen, Fredericksburg, Md.
Many riders seem to have forgotten the ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment and are leaning behind the vertical at every gait. This results in the seatbones being in a 'driving' position. You end up with a horse who is being told to go forward with the seat and being pulled in by the reins in the front --a very tense picture! Having scribed for several L and R judges, I often wonder why they never comment on rider position?
A. Dear Karen,
The test writing committee agrees that correct equitation and correct aids need to be addressed. This is why the rider score has been increased to a co-efficient of '3'. You describe a rider with 'conflicting' aids, and I agree this needs to be addressed with a lower score for the rider. A correct seat needs a three point contact--two seat bones and the crotch--plugged into the saddle like a three point plug into the wall. With the more modern, hotter (more Thoroughbred) type horses, a driving seat will make a horse crazy and tense. It is a very old style, old fashioned position.
I must say however, that some riders can have their legs a bit more forward and still have a wonderful soft seat. So it is the whole picture that tells the story. Our judges forums in 2007 are going to address the rider score. In the judges forum I taught in 2006, I told the judges I felt if the rider were the main problem, they should get the lowest score in the collective marks, not the horse for submission. I feel too many judges blame the horse, when the poor animal can't perform due to the rider's incorrect influence. I hope this will change.
Q. Carol O.
I was at a meeting yesterday and had the pleasure of hearing Lisa Wilcox speak. One of the things she discussed was rules placing barriers to riders being able to approach judges at shows. In Europe there are no rules barring competitors being able to approach judges, and Lisa felt this enhanced a rider's education. How do you feel about this, and is there a chance things may change here?
A. Dear Carol O.,
It is not only the riders in Europe who benefit. Let me tell you a story. The first time I judged in Europe, I had the honor of judging with Eric Lette. After the Grand Prix, he took me aside and told me we were joining his friends for drinks. He sat me down with Jo Hinneman, Conrad Schumacher and Harry Boldt. He asked them to give me comments on how I had judged their students!!!! Talk about nerve wracking!!! I wish things were different here in the United States too. However, it seems that lawyers and lawsuits make everyone in the United States wary. You may always talk to a judge if you ask the TD to approach the judge. We are all willing to talk to you! Please feel free to bring your test and discuss your concerns!