Dressage Training in Aiken, SC
Amy McElroy

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.

Majestic Farm Hotter Than Blue Blazes

We have received a Member’s Confidential Evaluation Form from a Federation member commending you on your officiating at the (327388-39) Hotter than Blue Blazes competition that took place 8/7/21.

While we cannot disclose the name of this member or their exact comments, we can share with you the substance of their comments. This member reported that you were a tough but fair judge. They continued to share that your comments were constructive and very helpful.

USEF would like to thank you for upholding the high standards that we set forth for our officials and for helping to promote the pursuit of excellence in equestrian sport.

Majestic Farm Hotter Than Blue Blazes II

We have received a Member’s Confidential Evaluation Form from a Federation member commending you on your officiating at the ((327389) MAJESTIC FARM HOTTER THAN BLUE BLAZES II) competition that took place 8/8/21.

While we cannot disclose the name of this member or their exact comments, we can share with you the substance of their comments. This member reported that competitors found your comments very helpful and that they appreciated the good comments they received on their tests.

USEF would like to thank you for upholding the high standards that we set forth for our officials and for helping to promote the pursuit of excellence in equestrian sport.

Ask the Judge – Medals on My Mind

Dear Amy,
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

Dear Medals,
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.

Coastal Flight Dressage Show

Dear Amy,

We have received a Member’s Confidential Evaluation Form from a Federation member commending you on your officiating at COASTAL FLIGHT DRESSAGE SHOW II (341051) competition that took place 4/24-25/2021.

While we cannot disclose the name of this member or their exact comments, we can share with you the substance of their comments. This member reported that your comments were very positive.

USEF would like to thank you for upholding the high standards that we set forth for our officials and for helping to promote the pursuit of excellence in equestrian sport.

Thank you,

https://www.usef.org/content/images/logo/useqlogo_email.jpgLICENSED OFFICIALS DEPARTMENT

Ask the Judge – Number of Judges

Dear Amy,

At several of our local USDF dressage shows there have been two or three judges’ booths with judges in them for some of the dressage classes. I wanted to know if these classes are judged differently from ones with a single judge? If you have three judges, do you receive all of the scoresheets afterwards? What class would I need to compete in to have this opportunity? I am still new to dressage and ride at Training Level.

Getting Started

Dear Getting Started,

This is a good observation! Many shows now, even our local shows, are offering classes that do require multiple judges. All dressage shows need at least one judge to be positioned on the centerline at the letter C, directly opposite A where you enter. Dressage judges earn different ratings, depending on their experience and expertise. An ‘r’ judge can officiate classes through the Second Level. An ‘R’ judge may officiate through the Fourth Level. An ‘S’ judge may officiate at all levels at a national show. FEI judges, who are sanctioned by the international governing body of equestrian sport, may officiate at all levels at a national or an international show. 

The judge sitting at C is considered the president of the ground jury for that competition arena. If there are two judges, the second judge would be placed on the middle of the long side in front of either the letter E or B: this decision is at the discretion of management. If three judges are required, in addition to the judge at C and a judge either at E or B, the next judge would be based at either M or H. The third judge’s booth will actually be on the short side, near the corner, to either side of the judge at C. When there are three judges, the second and third judges are placed diagonally to each other – If judge number two is at E, judge number three will be at H. If judge number two is at E, judge number three will be at M. 

Whether you have one judge or three judges, all of their scoring will have equal effect. Final numbers and percentages will be divided equally to come up with one final score and percentage. Each of the officials will evaluate the ride in the standard way. It is quite rewarding and informative to receive feedback from more than one judge. You should take note that these classes often will cost more to enter, depending on the number of judges. 

The purpose of multiple judges is to give you a more complete and accurate assessment of your ride. Wherever scores are posted, each judge’s score will be visible, but only the combined percentage score is official. It is to be hoped that all the judges’ scores will be similar so that the final scores will be close, and that the class will be placed in the approximately same order from one judge to the next. However, each judge will have a different view and will perhaps make different comments. After you have completed your ride, you are able to view all of your judges’ test sheets.

When competing in an arena with multiple judges, it is correct to halt and salute only your C judge in your entry and exit. This is the only judge who is allowed to signal you to start your test, who can eliminate you, and is the one who decides if you have made an error – in this case all the other judges will agree with the C judge. If you feel you need to excuse yourself from the ring for any reason, the C judge is the only one who can give you permission. However, you may acknowledge the other judges as you go around the apron of the arena as well as at your exit.

Most USDF tests (at national shows) will only have one judge. One type of competition where you would always see two judges is the USDF Regional Championships, which happen one time a year in the fall. All championship classes require two judges, one placed at C and one either at E or at B. You must be qualified to participate in these classes. If you compete at the U.S.National Finals (for which you also must qualify) there would always be three judges: C, B or E, and M or H. This competition occurs once a year and is in the fall.

So in what classes are you seeing multiple judges locally? These would be USEF qualifying classes, not to be confused with USDF qualifying classes: these are separate systems with different championships. In 2021, USEF competitors who want to qualify for the Dressage Festival of Champions, which occurs once a year (usually in July), will need to earn scores from USEF qualifying classes. USEF qualifying tests can require two or three FEI or S judges to be counted towards qualification. Qualifying classes at the Prix St. Georges, Intermediare 1, Intermediare II and Grand Prix levels require three judges. The following levels require a panel of two FEI or S judges: FEI Children Tests, FEI Pony Rider Tests, FEI Grand Prix 16-25 Tests, FEI Intermediare II Test (Brentina Cup), USEF Developing Horse Prix St Georges Test, USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Test, USEF Four Year Old Test, FEI Young Horse Tests for Five, Six, and Seven year olds. More and more riders in our area are interested in these tests and luckily we have show organizers and secretaries willing to offer them. 

As you can see there are many different classes and opportunities to be evaluated by a panel of judges. If you would like to have this opportunity at your level, one goal might be to try to qualify for a USDF regional championship. Regional championship tests are offered at all levels, including Training level. You would be required to ride the qualifying test, which is the highest test of the level. If you want to qualify for the Training level championship, for example, you need to compete at Training level test three. You need to obtain minimum scores from two tests with two different judges and from two different shows. To qualify as an adult amateur at this level, the minimum score is 63%. There are additional membership requirements and often a modest fee that go along with being able to qualify. If you do qualify and compete at the USDF regionals you will have two judges and will receive expertise and commentary from two officials. As you progress further in dressage competition there are many additional opportunities to be judged from a panel. 

Until then, keep enjoying your dressage journey and supporting our shows and riders by watching these classes. If you have the opportunity to attend High Performance shows, such as CDIs, World Cups and Olympics, classes can have five, six, and even seven judges – sometimes there will even be a judge at A.