April 2008
by Carolyn del Grosso, Dressage Trainer (and Equiery staffer)

In January, The United States Equestrian Federation Dressage Committee proposed to the — USEF Board of Directors a rule change that would require certain standards for performance in dressage before a rider can move up to the next level, similar to requirements in Germany. The Committee proposed that riders would be required to earn a certain number of points by achieving scores of 60% or higher at recognized shows in order to advance above second level. The uproar was so intense that the Board tabled the proposal until next year, noting that it supported the concept but charging the Committee to bring back a more detailed proposal, which – according to the PVDA Newsletter – is due out this summer.

The reason for the proposed rule change is that judges felt that bad riding constituted cruelty to the horse. Statistically, however, less than 3% of the rides being scored were less than 50%! So either the rides are not really that bad, or the judges aren’t scoring harshly enough for bad riding. I think that putting the burden solely on the judges to give bad scores, thus preventing riders from moving up, is not fair to the judges. Low scoring judges will become unpopular and will not get asked to judge again, or they will get so many complaints at the — USEF that they may lose or drop their licenses.

I also believe by imposing any such requirements, dressage will be irreparably damaged. No one will want to show or join — USEF or USDF, and this will eventually trickle down to the Group Member Organizations, such as PVDA, and then down to the instructors, lessons, etc. Unlike the MidAtlantic region where we have many shows within easy reach to achieve our minimum required scores, many riders in the mid-west and western states do not, thereby making point chasing onerous and unreasonable. The fastest growing segment of the — USEF will be gone! Furthermore, riders do not wish to be told they cannot move up. If they want to ride at a certain level, they will, whether they are ready or not; this is the USA, not a fascist regime!

What if we looked at this challenge from a different angle? Rather than requiring that riders achieve a certain number of points by earning certain scores before advancing (which could make an impossible goal for the ordinary rider on the ordinary horse), instead simply prohibit them from moving on unless or until his or her average score is at least 50% for the highest test at that level. After all, a “5” does mean “sufficient.” This proposal would remove the onerous “point chasing” and provide more opportunities for riders to learn and improve.

I do agree that riders who cannot achieve an average of 50% or higher should take a look at themselves and their horses before moving up!