Judging judging judging

3 Sep

judgepanel Two



The European Championships in Dressage and Show Jumping were just amazing this year

Roger-Yves Bost and the great mare, Myrtille Paulois  ( Dollar du Murier  x Grand Veneur)  , were individual Show Jumping champions with just super rides , a total of 1.58 TIME faults. ‘Bosty’ proved all over again that confidence in and  the ability to stay in balance with the equine partner is more important than classic style.  

Best of all in show jumping, except for the odd water jump, there is hardly any need for judges: whoever leaves the fences up and gets through the timers fastest is the winner.

Dressage, of course, is all the opposite.

If ever a sport was about the journey, not just the destination—it is dressage.

Each and every step — even the before-the-bell  warm-up around the outside of the arena, as well as the walk around after the final salute—it is all the fodder of endless discussion and dissection.

No one using any methodology known to mankind could expect that 3,5,7 or any other number of judges could come up with exactly the same  scores for what they are watching.

In fact, if there could be an exact way to measure everything in subjectively judged sport—then the spectator ratings would undoubtedly fall to nothing. Perhaps this is why soccer, for example, refuses to have instant replay: much more media coverage if fans can agonize over every referee decision.

Certainly, half the fun of subjective sports is the ‘water cooler’ discussions, where the judge opinions are mercilessly torn apart and cruelly proven incorrect, in favor of some other more personally favorable ranking.


Anyone who wants to criticize dressage judges should at least once get a Grand Prix dressage test sheet and score each box in REAL time—with comments when called for.

Studies have shown that transparency—the public availability of scores by movement for each judge—is the single best way to improve judging and the public perception of judging. Certainly this has been true for dressage and there is no one (hardly anyone) who might dispute that our current judging is the best the sport has ever experienced.

Which is not to say that the judging decisions at Euros were all perfect. Some of the scores were silly and others were so chauvinist, it was a kind of throwback to 2004.

Nevertheless, I am grateful that the scores were made public and can only applaud the decision to do this. And can only hope that this decision will carry over not only to Normandy next year but to Rio and the 2016 Olympics.


I am still waiting for the  2012 Olympic dressage scores to see the light of day…


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