What does dressage want???

8 Jul


Dressage-ponyDylan Philipps on Rusty




Every week–really, every day– there are observations, comments and criticisms of dressage as a sport or non-sport.

And the themes, by now, are fairly well set in cement.


One. The judges play favorites; play it safe; are not objective enough; got it wrong.

Two. The sport is ruined because a horse whose nose was behind vertical won; the sport is ruined because a horse  nicked its tongue and the rider needs to be disbarred from competition; the sport is ruined because the playing field is so unlevel and all it takes is a lot of money in order to win a medal.

Three.  The Great Age of dressage has been and gone, and will never come again.

Four. On the CDN level, all it takes is The Fancy Warmblood and training goes out the window (Note: See No. One above)

Five.  Magic. Horses win because their tack is special: because the girth is special, because the boots are special;because the new bit/noseband/browband changed history forever.


So let me be a cheerleader for a moment.

The judging is the best the sport has EVER had. There are few great judges in the same way that there are few great teachers and few great neurosurgeons: it is a specialty that requires a specific set of abilities and only a few can achieve the top of the bell curve. If people want to try to make the judges redundant and superfluous, so be it. I do not see this as useful for a sport whose very foundation is the fantasy of partnership/communication between two species.

The sport is being ruined by its own fans,who want to see the glass half-empty whenever their own favorite fails to gain the highest marks. The reality is, there has been popular demand from every side (fans, riders, organizers, sponsors,etc) to have the discipline become more like an athletic event and less like an art form.

The emphasis on obedience of course is still there–the horse and rider must go from point to point, with no mistakes in the described movement. BUT, on top of obedience are now harmony, power, expression, suppleness, connection/contact and all the rest of the parameters that make up risk, or degree of difficulty. All spelled out in the Judges Handbook.

Most people believe the bar was high at the London Olympics. Certainly, spectator passion was high, which means the performances moved people.

The European Championships are next month. I expect the bar to be nudged again.







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