Ask the Judge – Studying Dressage

Dear Amy,
I know that the eventing dressage tests have changed this year, while the USDF tests are still the same. But I have heard that there are also changes that were introduced in the FEI tests. Can you tell me what they are?
Studying Dressage

Dear Studying,
You are absolutely correct. There is a big change in the scoring of the FEI tests. They have also introduced a new freestyle at the Intermediare A/B level. Let’s take a look at these modifications.

In the FEI tests starting in 2018 (except young horse and freestyles) the existing four collective marks (paces, impulsion, submission and rider position) have been reduced to a single collective mark for the rider. The rationale for the elimination of the paces, submission and impulsion scores is that each of these factors will be assessed in every movement of the test and reflected in each scoring box. Although there was considerable opposition to this change, it was voted on and approved at the FEI general assembly in Geneva in November 2017.

From now on, at the bottom of your FEI tests, you will see a single box for rider position and seat, correctness and effect of the aids, and this will have a coefficient of two. The rules and the directives for awarding the rider mark remain the same as before. Judges will be taking into account the rider’s position and seat and the way in which he or she is able to influence the horse in order to produce an expressive, harmonious and fault-free performance. This score will be diminished if the test has many faults, there is obvious tension or resistance, there is discord between rider and horse or there are other negative factors, such as the use of voice.

Because the only collective mark is for the rider, this means your equitation is more important than ever. I encourage everyone to really work on developing a strong core so that you are able to have independent aids and an elegant and effective seat. The new Intermediare A/B freestyle is an exciting addition. This test is at a higher level than the Intermediare I freestyle, but not as advanced as the Grand Prix. For this test, horses must be at least 8 years old. The Freestyle has a 5- to 5-minutes- and-30 second (5.30) time limit. The freestyle will include half passes right and left in the trot and canter, extended trot and extended canter, a minimum of five tempi changes every second stride and a minimum of five tempi changes every stride. There is a single canter pirouette right and left that has a coefficient of two (in the Grand Prix, double pirouettes are allowed, but at this level they are not.) There is a minimum of 12 meters of passage, also with a coefficient of two. There is a minimum of eight straight steps of piaffe – at this level the horse is allowed to move forward as much as two meters, whereas in the Grand Prix the horse should not travel and ideally performs on the spot. The freestyle also includes an extended walk and a collected walk. There are also separate scores for transitions into and out of the piaffe.

These are the two main innovations on the FEI level this year. Here are some other things to consider, especially as we look forward to the World Equestrian Games, which will come to the Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina in September.

From the USEF rulebook: “Intentionally taking the reins into one hand to produce impulsion or to promote applause from spectators will be considered a fault and reflected in that movement and in the collective for rider position.” It is, of course, still permitted and in fact mandatory, to take the reins in one hand when you salute the judge. All horses must wear a browband and a noseband.

A competitor may not withdraw or scratch from a class after a final salute – some people might want to do this after a disappointing ride so that they would not get a bad score. If for some reason you feel you cannot continue your test, you must ask the judge at C to be excused, and he or she might grant your request.

Another reminder: in the FEI tests, your first error is worth two percentage points off your final score, and your second error is elimination. This means that an error is much more serious at this level: at lower levels, an error is two points off your raw score and you are allowed two errors – you would be eliminated after a third error.

Also, remember at all levels that you are not allowed to use your voice at all – no talking, whispering or clucking. There is a two-point deduction for each movement where you can be heard.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain some of the changes at the FEI level in 2018. I know there are many riders who are looking forward to competing in the new Intermediare A/B freestyle, which will give more opportunities to riders who are not quite at the Grand Prix level yet. From a judge’s point of view, it will be interesting to see how the new, single collective mark will affect the final percentage scores. This change may result in higher scores overall, and certainly reward riders who take the time to work on their equitation. We shall see!

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