Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ask the Judge: Questions about Dressage

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. Do you have a question for Amy? Send her an email at McElroyDRM@ aol.com, or visit her website: www.amymcelroy.com.

Dear Amy,

I recently showed in a recognized dressage show. I didn’t realize that the new 2015 tests have a different number of collective marks than the 2014 tests. Could you please explain the new collective marks for the rider position?

Training Level

Dear Training Level,
You are correct that the new 2015 tests have changed their collective marks. The new tests have only five collective marks versus the six that have been in use since 2011. We still have collective marks for Gaits, Impulsion and Submission. The difference this year is that there are now only two collective marks for the rider, rather than three. Each “rider position” scoring box has a coefficient of one.

The first scoring box for rider position is called Rider’s Position and Seat. The second is called Rider’s Correct and Effective Use of Aids. Let’s look at the directives for these marks.

Rider’s Position and Seat: The directives for this scoring box call for the judge to evaluate the rider’s posture and alignment, stability, elasticity, weight placement, and the ability to follow the mechanics of the gaits. So what does that all mean? Here’s an explanation adapted from the USEF judge’s guidelines.

Posture and Alignment: at all gaits, the rider’s ear, shoulder, hip and heel are vertically aligned. The rider does not lean ahead of or behind the vertical. The rider’s spine is perpendicular to and aligned with the horse’s spine. The back is neither rounded nor hollow, and the shoulders and hips are level. This is the ideal position.

Weight Placement and Stability: At all gaits and movements, the rider sits vertically with his or her weight distributed equally on both seat bones. For example, on a circle, the rider does not lean inward or outward.

Following Mechanics of Gaits: at all gaits, the rider demonstrates the ability to ride in harmony with the mechanics of each gait. The hands act independently to maintain a steady elastic connection with the horse’s mouth.

This mark is evaluated essentially the same as a dressage equitation class would be.

Rider’s Correct and Effective Use of Aids: The directives for this box include clarity, subtlety, independence and accuracy of the test. Again, adapted from the USEF judge’s guidelines:

Clarity and subtlety: The rider prepares for and performs all movements using tactful, quiet, effective aids, giving the impression of clear communication between horse and rider. The training of the horse appears to be following the principles of the training scale.

Independence: Both horse and rider appear confirmed at their level and confident. The rider is able to use the seat, leg and hand aids independently. The horse and rider are pleasant to watch.

Accuracy of Test: The horse and rider perform the movements with the correct geometry. The horse responds obediently and accurately. The horse and rider are able to perform all the movements at the level in which they are competing with ease. This aspect of the mark also relates to the submission score.

Rider’s Correct and Effective use of Aids is scored independently from the other rider score, but the two scores do relate. The better and more secure the rider position is, the more the rider will be able to influence the horse in a positive way.

These newer collectives have been well received by riders, trainers and judges alike. Rider position is important, so continue to work on your equitation, and not just to get a better score on your dressage test. Better equitation will certainly earn you a higher score in these collective marks. Excellent equitation will also greatly improve the effectiveness of your ride and enhance the overall presentation of your test.
                                                                                                                                    Good Luck!

April-May 2015