Ask the Judge – Upper Level Newbie

Dear Amy,

I have just purchased an FEI dressage schoolmaster and I am hoping to be able to show at the Prix St. Georges level locally very soon.

I want to know, if my horse was born in the United States does he need a passport to show at this level? Also, people keep asking me if I am going to do the “Small Tour,” and I don’t know how to answer them. What is the Small Tour?

-Upper Level Newbie

 

Dear Newbie,

Congratulations on the purchase of your new ride. You are lucky to have a schoolmaster to bring you up the FEI levels (Prix St. Georges through the Grand Prix.) For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a schoolmaster is a horse that is already trained and confirmed at the level at which you are riding. Because the horse is well-versed in the movements, you can concentrate on your own development. You are not both learning at the same time: in fact the horse can teach you and help to show you the way.

Although you will be showing at the Prix St. Georges level, which is an FEI (international) level, if you are showing locally, you will still be showing on the national level, because we don’t currently have an international dressage show here in Aiken. Because of this, you will not need a passport, whether your horse was born in the U.S. or in another country.

If you show in the United States (or any other country) at an international show, a horse passport is mandatory, whether your horse was born in the country in which you are showing or somewhere else.

There are differences between national and FEI tests. In America, the USDF has dressage tests from Intro through the Fourth Level. These national tests are for our country only: Other countries have their own versions of these lower level tests. For example, in Germany, our Third Level tests are equivalent to an M (Medium) level test, but the tests themselves are not the same even if they have many of the same elements. However, all countries use the exact same FEI tests and the exact same scoring system.

So, if you compete at the Prix St. Georges level in the United States it will be the same test as the Prix St. Georges level in Germany. According to the FEI rulebook, the official dressage tests are published on the authority of the FEI, and in no case can they be modified or simplified without the approval of the FEI.

Interestingly, there are other FEI tests beside the upper level test. To name a few: the FEI Young Rider, Junior, Children’s, Pony, and Young Horse tests, which are all standardized internationally.

Let’s address your question about the Small Tour. There are four FEI tours: the Small Tour, the Medium Tour, the Big Tour and the Under 25 Tour. The tours are groupings of tests that can be ridden at the same show: remember you can compete at two different levels, but they must be consecutive. The Small Tour comprises the Prix St. Georges, the Intermediaire I and the Intermediaire I Freestyle. The Medium Tour includes Intermediaire A, Intermediaire B and Intermediaire II. The Big Tour is made up of the Intermediaire II, the Grand Prix, the Grand Prix Freestyle and the Grand Prix Special. The Under 25 is exclusively for riders aged 16 to 25 years old. This tour includes combinations of the Intermediaires A, B and II, the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Freestyle.  

So if someone asks you if you are planning to show the Small Tour, you can say that you are just getting started with the Prix St. Georges. If your goal is to progress to Intermediaire I, you can say you are working towards the Small Tour.

Here is a comparison of the lower levels and FEI levels at national and international shows.

(Regional and national championships have different rules and these comparisons might not apply.)

USDF National Level (4th Level and Below) FEI Tests at National Show FEI Tests at International Show
• Can have a reader or perform by memory • Ride by memory: Callers prohibited • Ride by memory: Callers prohibited
• May carry a whip • May carry a whip • Whips are prohibited
• May use a snaffle bridle: Double bridles optional Third Level and above • Snaffle or double bridle allowed • Double bridle required
• Spurs are optional • Spurs are mandatory • Spurs are mandatory
• Must wear a safety helmet • Must wear a safety helmet • Safety helmets optional: top hat allowed (Military riders in uniform may wear military cap.)
• Any English saddle with stirrups allowed Third Level and below: dressage saddle required for Fourth Level • Must ride in dressage saddle with stirrups • Must ride in dressage saddle with stirrups
• You don’t need to turn in a copy of your Freestyle test before you perform. • You don’t need to turn in a copy of your Freestyle test before you perform. • You must submit your Freestyle test before you perform
• No horse passport required • No horse passport required • Horse passport required for all horses.
• You may have your trainer warm up your horse for you. • You may have your trainer warm up your horse for you. • No one may ride your horse but you while on the show grounds. (Exception: your groom may ride at the walk on the buckle.)
• Only one judge is required (“r” at Second Level and below; “R” at Fourth level and below. All higher ratings permissible.) • May have one or more judges. “S” or above required. • A panel of three to seven judges depending on the rating of the show. All must be FEI judges.
• First error: -2 points off your rough score; Second error:-4 points; Third error: elimination • First error: -2 percentage points off your final score; Second error: Elimination! • First error: -2 percentage points off your final score; Second error: Elimination!

Good luck to you riding at Prix St. Georges. I hope you will work your way through the Small Tour and perhaps to an FEI sanctioned show in the future, maybe even here in Aiken!

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