Dressage 'in need of judging shake-up'

Theresa McCaffrey


Trakhener - Dressur Erstes 2.jpg
"Trakhener - Dressur Erstes 2". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


Dressage judging is a notoriously difficult task, requiring senior judges with years of expertise in the event and a strong eye for detail.

However, following the discrepancy in scores at the European Championships that cost Britain the gold medal, riders and judges are calling for a shake-up in how the competition is judged.

Horse and Hound reports that Swedish judge Gustav Svalling marked Michael Eilberg and Half Moon Delphi 0.7 points lower than the other judges' average scoring 95 per cent of the time.

This discrepancy meant that Britain did not come away with a gold medal and instead were awarded a bronze prize.

Speaking to the publication, Britain's Wayne Channon on the International Dressage Riders Club said: "We need to design a system that can reliably be done by a human - that is, it can be done with consistency and accuracy.

"The current one requires judges to be practically psychic. There are so many variables - it needs to evolve."

He explained that national bias is not a new issue, however it continues to be talked about by riders.

In order to reduce this pressure it has been suggested that anonymous judging could be a great way to continue, ensuring fairer results are delivered.
The International Federation of Equestrian Sports reviewed the system in 2009 and will undertake a second review of the European Championships after much consultation with different affected parties to help ensure that the judging can be standardised and better monitored.

Trainers and riders often progress to become judges and there are nearly 1,000 British Dressage (BD) judges in the UK, graded from list six to one, with the latter being the most experienced level. These individuals are able to judge grand prix tests at championships.

Andrew Gardner from the Judges Committee for BD explained that good judging underpins the sport, and, while largely voluntary, demands a great commitment and integrity, due to the responsibility the role entails.

"You have to remember that it influences people wherever they are in their training. It is not something to be taken lightly," he writes on the BD website.