Ask the Judge – 2022 Dressage Rules Update

Dear Amy,

I will be wintering in Aiken this year with my two horses and I am planning to be competing at a few recognized events and dressage shows. Would you please provide an update on any new dressage rules and changes for the 2022 competition year?

-Getting Ready

Dear Ready,

How lucky that you will get to spend the winter in our wonderful horsey town. This competition year does have many changes in both the event and dressage divisions. I would be happy to share the most important changes that will go into effect as of December 1, 2021.

First, let’s take a look at Eventing dressage divisions changes. If you haven’t already heard, this is the year the eventing tests change. As of December 1, 2021, competitions will only be using the new 2022 tests. These tests stay in effect for the next four years (through 2025.)  All the new tests can be found online on the USEA website as well on various other sites.

The biggest change on all the event dressage tests is a reduction in the collective marks. There will no longer be the standard four collective marks: Gaits, Impulsion, Submission, and Rider. Instead, the new format calls for a single collective mark. This collective mark is valid for all the new tests from Starter (a new category) through Advanced level. The new singular collective mark is referred to as Harmony of Athlete and Horse. That means your final mark is based on the directive of “a confident partnership created by adhering to the scales of training.” This collective will have a coefficient of two, meaning that it counts double. Since it is a reflection of your whole ride, your number should be similar to the numbers you have earned in your test. For example, if most of your movements earn you a 5 or a 6, you would not likely see an 8 for your collective; it would more likely be in the 6 range. This singular collective was actually introduced in 2020, but at that time was only adopted in the FEI tests. 

The Starter division, new for 2022, has just one test.  Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training will once again have two different tests, Test A and Test B. The Modified division has become so popular over the last four years that they have added a third test to that division: now there are Modified A, B, and C tests. The Preliminary and Intermediate divisions have also added a third, C test. Another change: Preliminary B will use a small arena (20 x 40) rather than a large arena (20 x 60) as in previous tests, with the Preliminary C test designed for a full-sized arena. The movements in the new tests are similar to those in the old ones, but they will occur in different places and the geometry of the tests is different.

If you are planning to compete, it is always advisable to review the current rules in the USEF rulebook under the Eventing Division.  I hope you will get to try out some of these new tests. I am looking forward to seeing how they ride.

On to the Dressage division. Dressage tests themselves will not be changing until December 1, 2022. (Both eventing and straight dressage divisions have new tests every four years, but they are on a slightly different schedule.) The greatest changes you will see in the rulebook are under “DR120” the dress code rules.  The new, less restrictive, dress code rules apply to all levels and classes at all USEF/USDF shows, including the Regional Championships.  

According to the USEF 2022 rulebook, protective headgear is always mandatory, but you may have your helmet color match your coat. Contrast coloring, accents, and crystal decoration are also allowed on your helmet. As in the past, a short riding jacket or a cutaway coat (a modified tailcoat) with short tails is allowed at any level. But the rules on color have been changed.  Whereas in the past, jackets or coats were required to be “of conservative color,” now any single color jacket (Fourth Level and below), or tailcoat (above Fourth level) is allowed, and may have subtle pin striping, checks, or tweeds. Tasteful and discrete accents and decorations are acceptable, but striped and multi-colored jackets or coats are still not permitted. Shirts and stock ties can be any color, but if worn without a jacket, your shirt should not have a bold pattern, and you may not wear a stock tie if you are not wearing a coat. In the past, breeches were required to be white or light, but now they may also be dark and may even have contrast piping.  However, bright colors or patterns are still illegal. When it comes to riding boots, in any tests below Fourth level you may wear tall boots or paddock/jodhpur boots with half chaps of a matching the color (these used to be allowed only up to First Level.) Tall English-style boots are required above Fourth level. Field boots are also permitted. Boots of coordinating color with or without accents are also permitted. 

Although the new rules give you more choices, they are not actually relaxed. In fact, in some ways they are stricter because now you will be eliminated for dress code violations. This used to be at the discretion of the judge, but as of 2022, it is mandatory.  So, if you have any questions about whether your attire is permitted, be sure to check with the technical delegate of the show before your ride. It is always up to the rider to know and understand the current rules. 

So many colors to choose from, and so many opportunities to show off your individual taste and style!  Expect to see fewer white shirts, white ties, and white pants with black boots, black coats, and black helmets. It’s 2022: Time to express yourself!

It’s going to be an exciting competition year with all the new event tests and the new, fun dressage attire. Enjoy your winter and I hope to see you come down my centerline.

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