Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ask the Judge | From Grey Mare

With Amy McElroy

Amy McElroy is an FEI competitor and 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 between 15 and 20 dressage shows and events each year.

In her popular Ask the Judge column, she answers readers’ questions about dressage.


Dear Amy,

My friends keep telling me I should try for my Century Club dressage award. I am interested, but I don’t know much about this medal. I have never seen this class offered at any of our local shows. Can you tell me more about it?

-- Grey Mare


Dear Grey Mare,

If you are eligible to earn a Century Club award this year, I have to start my answer with “Congratulations!” Eligibility for this award requires a combination of the rider’s age and the horse’s age to be at least 100. Any combination will suit: your horse is 28, and you are 72, for example, or your horse is 17 and you are 83. Since this award was established in 1996, there have been just 174 recipients in the United States. In the state of South Carolina, there have so far been two recipients. Every time you have a horse and rider combination that fit the criteria, you will be able to apply. Each horse and rider combination can receive the award once. However, you can earn the award on several different horses, and the horse can receive the award with several different riders, as long as their ages add up to at least 100.

The Century Club award is given by the Dressage Foundation. This is not the same as the United States Dressage Federation (USDF), which gives out Bronze, Silver and Gold medals to recognize riders’ achievements. The Dressage Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “cultivate and provide financial support for the advancement of dressage.” The Century Club evolved to reward and recognize senior riders and senior horses, and to encourage their participation in the sport.

In order to receive the award, you must perform a dressage test at any level at any show, including a schooling show, or even at your own farm. There is no designated “Century Club Award Class.” You must, however, have a recognized judge or an “L” graduate evaluate and score your test like any other test in a show. There is no minimum score: the requirement is to complete the test. But it is important to demonstrate that the horse and rider are able to work well together, and it should also be fun for both.

To receive credit for your ride, you need to fill out a simple application that you will find on the Dressage Foundation website ( It is the rider’s responsibility to obtain and send in this application and to have it approved well before the show or judged test. Judges and show managers do not have this application in hand. The application has no fee.

If you are planning to earn a Century Club award at a show, you should be sure to let the show manager know about it in advance. Earning this award is a big accomplishment, and the show might want to have a celebration. As soon as you have completed your test, you will receive the big black and gold ribbon, donated by the Dressage Foundation. The foundation also makes arrangements for the local media to be present and puts out a press release.

After the test, the score sheets and other paperwork are sent to the Dressage Foundation, where everything will be confirmed (your age, the horse’s age, the name and qualifications of the judge, that you completed the test, and so on.) Then you will receive the very prestigious Century Club award, a plaque that includes your name, your horse’s name and the year you earned the award. Your name will also be added to the current roster of Century Club members, which can be viewed online or in the Dressage Foundation newsletter.

If you are eligible, this is a great chance to become a part of dressage history. You can earn this award even if dressage is not your primary discipline: all you need to do is to learn some of the basics of dressage and practice until you can master the movements required in a test. I would encourage you, (and any other horse and rider combinations that have reached the century mark) to take advantage of this opportunity and come represent South Carolina in this achievement in horsemanship. Rumor has it that at least one Aiken rider has sent in an application for this spring. I aspire to join this club myself when I meet the criteria, and I hope to be a part of your celebration. Good luck.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.