Ask the Judge – Multiple Judges

Dear Amy,

While I competed recently at a local USDF dressage show, I was very surprised to see my show arena had two judges! I was only showing at the lower levels. I thought only more advanced or special shows had multiple judges. So I was wondering if you could you explain the protocol when there is more than the C judge? How does the scoring work? And is there something the rider should do differently? 

Also, in my next show, the prize list says it will have electronic scoring. I am unclear what that means and how it will affect my ride. Could you please shed some light on this?

Double Puzzled

Dear Double Puzzled,

You were very fortunate to have the opportunity to perform for two judges at a standard recognized show. You are correct in finding this unusual. Although many shows would love to have panel judging (more than one judge per test) this usually not feasible since it would be a major expense, and it is not required in a regular show. Many dressage competitions do require two or more officials, however.

When there is a second judge, they will be required to sit at a middle long-side letter, either B or E (the show will decide which.) The head judge will always officiate from the middle of the short side at C opposite the entrance to the arena. The head judge is in charge of the signal for entry, and for determining errors or causes for elimination. These will, however, be meted out after conferring with the other judge. Both judges are required to score these elements the same.

However, all the other scoring is individual. When tests are complete and ready for pick-up, you will receive a copy of both judges’ tests. The final score and final placing are derived from the average of both scoresheets.

It is a real treat and quite helpful to have feedback from more than one judge for a single ride.

Officials appreciate having the opportunity as well, to see how their scores compare with those of another judge. Two judges can be offered for any level or at any show, even when it is not required. Here are some tips for riding in front of two judges. 

When there is an official on the side, it is appropriate and appreciated to let them know your show number as you ride by before entering the arena in addition to telling your number to the judge at C. (This is especially important if there is electronic scoring.) When you enter the arena, you must salute your judge at C in your entry and exit halt. You do not salute the judges on the side, but it is always acceptable to thank all your judges when the test is complete as you leave the arena.

Each judge scores a ride as though they were the only judge there. They do not have the ability or the opportunity to converse about your ride during your test. You will often find that your judges have written similar comments and given the same scores, which might surprise you. But this is not because they are working together: it is because they have had extensive training to evaluate a ride and are holding you to the same standard. 

As far as electronic scoring goes, this is also a treat for all to experience. Electronic scoring has been around for a long time at larger shows, but has only recently started to become widely used at smaller venues in the United States. What this means is there is no paper test. Your judge will still be dictating to your scribe but instead of writing the marks and the comments by hand, the scribe will be typing on a keyboard. Your judge has previously submitted their signature to the competition, so when your test is completed with final scores and comments, the scribe can simply click “submit” and put in a code that appends a secure signature.

There are many benefits of this system for the rider, the judge, and especially the scribe.

Since all scores are electronic, you can see your score immediately. Comments may be easier to understand since they are typed rather than written in longhand. (No more deciphering handwriting and trying to guess what was written!) Your judge also can clearly see all the test comments and numbers and will know your final percentage before submitting your test. Once the judge clicks “submit” all the scores and comments can no longer be changed.

I hope this gives you insight into what occurs when competing under two judges. I am certain you will enjoy having your ride electronically scored versus on paper, but don’t worry, because you will be able to have a printed copy if you would like one.

Good luck with your riding and showing.

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