Questions about Dressage
With Amy McElroy
Amy McElroy is a USEF R judge, qualified to officiate at any USEF recognized show at all national dressage levels. She rides, trains and teaches at Fairlane Farm in Aiken and judges about a dozen dressage shows and events each year. In her popular Ask the Judge column, she answers readers' questions about dressage.
I recently went to my first recognized event. I was waiting my turn for my dressage test in the warm-up ring, and I went to my show arena when the ring steward said I could. But when I got to the arena, the judge warned me I could be eliminated, as I was late! I did what the steward said! I was so upset I had a bad ride. Can the judge do this?
-Upset in Aiken
Although this must have been upsetting to you, please remember your judge is not looking for reasons to eliminate you and really does want you to have a good ride. This is especially true in a dressage test at an event because if you are eliminated in dressage, you are eliminated from the competition on that horse, and judges are very aware of this and try hard not to eliminate competitors for trivial reasons.
However, the USEF rules must be followed by everyone, including all judges and competitors. Let's see what the rulebook says in the Eventing section.
EV134. Dressage Rules.
3. A competitor failing to enter the arena within 45 seconds of the starting signal may be eliminated at the discretion of the ground jury.
EV136: Dressage Scoring.
2. Additional reasons for elimination.
a. Elimination is left to the discretion of the ground jury in the following cases:
(1) Failing to enter the arena within 45 seconds of starting signal.
It is always the rider's responsibility to be on time. Know what your exact ride time is. Be ready to go around the apron of the arena as soon as the rider in front of you has completed his or her salute. Your ring steward is a very generous volunteer whose job is to help keep the show running smoothly, but is not responsible for keeping you on time or for telling you when to go to the arena. When you get to your warmup ring you should check in with the ring steward if there is one there, but you should not wait for the steward to tell you to go to the arena. When it is your time to ride, you should go to the arena and ride.
Please check the roster and order of go when you get to your warm-up arena. I suggest finding out which rider you are immediately after. It is also good to know if you are the first rider after a break, or if the rider in front of you has scratched. This will help you plan your time wisely. Remember that you will get your signal to go into the arena at your ride time, whether you are there or not. Once that signal has gone off, you have 45 seconds to come down the center line. If you do not enter the ring at that point, you are in peril of elimination.
As you know, sometimes dressage arenas will run late, and another competitor may still be in the ring at your published ride time. However, it is still your responsibility to come into apron of the ring immediately after the designated rider ahead of you completes his or her salute. Your signal may sound immediately after this rider leaves the arena. Your judge will appreciate you being ready, as this could help get the arena running back on schedule.
On the other hand, if your arena is running early, you are not required to go in and ride before your assigned time. You may go into the apron early if you feel ready, as soon as the person riding before you has saluted. Remember that once you have presented yourself in this area, you could receive the signal to begin your test at any time. If you are there ten minutes early, be ready to do your test ten minutes early. The judge will not allow you to ride around the apron more than a few times before signaling you to enter the arena.
I am not sure why the steward had you wait in this instance. In the future, if you have any problems or concerns with the way your ride time is handled, you should contact the Technical Delegate (TD) to report your concerns as soon as possible so that the matter can be addressed. There is a TD available at all recognized shows, whose job is to help you with these kinds of issues.
So, to answer your question, yes, the judge can eliminate you for being late, no matter what the reason. In this case, the judge was willing to allow you to ride even though you were late, and I am sure she did not think she was scolding you by informing you that you could have been eliminated. She was more likely making sure that you were aware of the rules, so that you would not put yourself in the same situation in the future.
Good luck at your next event!