Judging: Same comment but different score – why?

While judging some smaller shows these past two weekends, I was quizzing my scribes and “sit-in” judges about movements which show similar problems but receive different scores. For example, two different horses can receive the same comments on a movement, but one horse can score higher than another on that movement. Why? The answer is this: Quality.

For example, let’s take two horses performing shoulder-in left at second level.

Let’s say the comment on both reads something like: “needs clear bend” or “quarters drift to outside”. The first horse, however, shows a high-quality trot and good basics, like steady rhythm and tempo, good energy, balance, elasticity, and connection. On this horse, I’m already starting with a high score in my mind, which will come down a point or two because of the bend issue. Let’s assume that our second horse has problems with the rhythm, energy, balance or connection, or lacks elasticity or adequate “uphill tendency” for the level. If there are already inherent problems with the quality of trot, then the score in my head is already lower to begin with, and will be lowered further due to the same bending issues. Therefore, the final score for the shoulder-in could differ by one or more points between the two horses simply due to the difference in quality.

At this point, the question usually comes up: “Do I need a fancy horse to do well in dressage?” My answer is always a resounding “no!”. While it certainly helps having a horse with high-quality gaits, an average-moving horse, ridden well and in good balance, often wins out over one with better gaits but showing poor basics or sloppy riding.

Just another reason to practice the basics, every day, at every level!

Happy Riding!


One Response to “Judging: Same comment but different score – why?

  • Nice, Very clear explanation of what is most important. This also reminds me of the training scale.