I was at a dressage show recently and I heard the announcer congratulating one competitor for earning her Bronze medal, and then another one for earning her Silver medal. I am interested in learning more about these awards. What classes do I need to sign up for to be eligible? Is it the same as entering a qualifying class? How does your judge know if you are trying to earn one of the medals? Can any rider earn one?
-Medals on My Mind
I am glad to hear you are interested in working towards your riding medals, and you bring up some interesting questions that I hope to be able to clarify.
Let’s first talk about the medals themselves. These are awarded through the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) and there are three different medals a rider may earn by getting a specified number of minimum scores on tests at various levels. The good news is that a USDF medal is based solely on the rider’s achievements. This means you can earn scores on many different horses and at your own pace. There are no time restraints. It is even possible to receive all three medals at one show (which is exceptionally rare) or to take 30 or more years to get your first one.
The three medals are Bronze, Silver, and Gold. To earn your Bronze medal you would need to compete in First, Second, and Third level tests. You are required to ride two tests from each of the three levels and earn a total of six scores of 60% or higher. The scores must come from two different judges for each level and on two different rides, but maybe at the same show. There is not a required test for any levels for your score to count. This is totally up to the rider.
To earn your Silver medal, you must earn a total of four scores of 60% or higher: two from Fourth Level and two from Prix St Georges. These scores likewise need to come from two different judges and two different rides per level. You can earn scores in any of the Fourth level tests, but there is only one Prix St Georges (PSG) test.
To earn your Gold medal you must have four scores of 60% or higher. Two of the scores can be earned from any of the following tests; Intermediaire I, Intermediaire A, Intermediaire B, Intermediaire II. The two final scores must be earned on the Grand Prix test. It is important to keep in mind that freestyle scores do not count towards points for any medals.
In order to be eligible for a medal, you must receive your scores while competing at a recognized USDF show. You are required to be a USDF Participating or Group member in good standing when you earn your scores, and the competing horse (and there can be several), must be registered with USDF or have a Horse Identification (HID) number when the scores are earned.
Although it is not mandatory to earn the medals in chronological order, many riders do start with the goal of earning a Bronze medal, which is quite an accomplishment in itself. There is not a special class or an extra fee to ride for a score that counts for a medal and there is no place on an entry form or on your judge’s day sheet that would inform you a ride would be counting towards a medal. This is different from entering a “Q” or qualifier class for the regional USDF championships. You do need to sign up for qualifier classes: there is also an extra fee and your judge would see you are trying to qualify on their day sheets, which should not have an impact on the way your ride is scored. Qualifier tests are always the highest level test of each division — for example, in First through Fourth level, the Qualifier
would be test 3. In the FEI tests (above Fourth level) there is only one test per level. To be eligible to compete in the regional championships, you need two qualifying scores from two different judges and
at two different shows.
If you have earned a medal at a show, you or your representative can inform the show secretary or announcer to share the exciting news of your accomplishment. In the year 2021 so far there have been 12 riders from South Carolina who have earned their Bronze medals and five who have earned their Silver medals. There are two riders from South Carolina (and in fact from Aiken) who earned their Gold medals this year: Congratulations to Aiken’s own Kathy Viele and Justine Wilson.
Although you do not have to enter any special classes to earn a medal, you do need to apply for it when you have earned all the required scores. The application is online on the USDF site and it does not have a fee. Once your application has been approved, you will receive a beautiful certificate and a medal. You may also purchase a smaller version of this medal as a pin to wear on your show jacket. Many riders do choose to do this and it is perfectly acceptable.
A part of the USDF mission is to offer many award programs so riders at all levels can have riding goals. Striving to obtain a qualifying score, competing in the regional championships, and the popular USDF rider medals are just a sample of the programs that are offered. So go ahead and start your mission to earn your scores. Other than having your membership up-to-date there is nothing special you need to do. Just ride the best you can and continue to enjoy your journey in dressage.