What goes around, comes around

18 Mar


Only a few years ago, the Big Thing in dressage judging was to learn to be more like figure skating.

Figure skating had suffered a crisis of spectator credibility during a judging scandal (you give my skater points, I will give your skater points). A decision was made to have a Code of Points. Each and every move was  assigned a Degree of Difficulty, and only the moves were scored—with a  cursory nod at artistry.

Sort of the same as dressage freestyles.

The results could be predicted—and were—and now the results of such half-baked thinking are everywhere, most recently at the Men’s World Finals in figure skating.

IF the emphasis is mainly on technical with risk, then mathematically, the most daring skaters often score the highest—even with falls, even with clumsily inserting an extra DOD move into a freestyle, regardless of the music or the choreography, in order to make up for aforementioned fall.

This past weekend, the tweets and comments were flying furiously around the globe:

from the Los Angeles Times—

<<… in a USA Today column, the judges gave scores to leading skaters based on what they have been capable of doing in the past rather than what they actually did in this event.

Judges use the program component scores to prop up favorites just the way they used the old artistic impression mark. Whether it’s 5.9 out of 6.0 or 9.11 (one of a skater’s inflated marks) out of 10, it smells just as bad. >>

In all other subjectively judged sports other than dressage, there is only the human athlete’s inner ambition to measure against resulting  success. Even in pairs figure skating, there are only 4 legs to watch and they all belong to the same species with the same desires and communication skills.

Still–at the Olympic level, it is a table of 12 judges,  they are assigned to watch different parts of each movement and give scores. Which sounds more complicated than dressage, but it is simply humans watching the mechanics of a specific movement. The overriding score in dressage is for something far more complex than a single or even double set of skates doing stuff: dressage measures the communication between human and alien mind.

Only dressage attempts to measure the relationship between two species, their ability to ‘push the envelope’ .

When that relationship is very good, the results can be close to sublime, and –as they say–a blind judge can see it.


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