There’s no shame in admitting that at some point over many years of showing dressage, you have probably gotten a score here or there that you felt was unexpectedly harsh. We’ve all been there. You are the one that has the greatest appreciation for your horse’s challenges, and sometimes it can feel like others don’t see the little victories or less significant milestones that you struggle to reach. It’s never a good feeling when you put in what you feel is a good ride, only to get a score that is just “OK”, or worse. You may be tempted to burn the test and avoid ever riding in front of that judge again, but don’t just look at the score and crumple up the test in disappointment. Learn how to take a more analytical look at the scores and remarks to understand what is missing that will prevent any further progress.

Subjective Sport

Have you ever ridden in front of multiple judges and received different scores? When only one judge is present, they watch from C. With multiple judges, they will be positioned at different letters around the arena. So why is it that if judges all follow the same guidelines that you have a range of scores for the same ride?

Unfortunately, the perspective from which the judge is watching has an effect on what they can see. This can be a frustrating reality of our sport. For example, the judge at C can easily tell if a rider is straight on the center line. You are scored on what the judge can see. Therefore, if you have one score that is lower than the other, it is not necessarily because one judge is tougher than the other but rather they are seeing two different views of your ride.

Learning from Criticism

I know many people who have a list of certain judges that they refuse to ride in front of because they believe they are too harsh. I believe there are more factors involved, such as the perspective from which the judge was watching. Instead of believing that a judge may be prejudiced to the type of horse you ride or whatever your concern, read their comments and accept the criticism. Remember that dressage is subjective and that if you rode in front of ten different judges, they may all have slightly different critiques. Read the comments on each movement and be honest with yourself when you get a disappointing score. The judge is not out to get you! Also remember that in dressage, you should really only be competing against yourself anyway.

CDI Vs. National Affiliate Judging

CDI stands for Concours Dressage International, which is an international competition recognized by the FEI and run under their rules, rather than the USEF. CDIs can be qualifiers for prestigious competitions such as NAJYRC, the World Cup, and the Olympics. Five judges preside over a CDI class, which means that there are five sets of very seasoned eyes all watching from different perspectives. Most people assume that CDIs are always scored lower just because it’s a prestigious competition, but this is more due to the fact that since there are more judges, there is more opportunity for a ride to be critiqued.

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