Dressage is a sport, right?

4 Nov


The new FEI Dressage Tests for 2014 will give piaffe a coefficient of 2.

Some horses have a genius for piaffe–and others do not. Just as some horses have a fantastic walk — and others do not. No horse is perfect and it is very exciting when one comes along and has just about everything and is fortunate enough to have a human partner who clicks into a great partnership.


It only has so much to do with ‘training’. And this emphasis on piaffe is not going to improve the ‘training’. In fact,it sends a clear message to spend more time perfecting the 3Ps of dressage (Piaffe, Passage,Pirouettes), and less on underlying foundation.

IIRC, Pi-Pa and transition scores already account for  over 60% of the available points in the GPS — without the coefficient.

Of course, horses that show early promise for the 3 Ps will command ever higher prices. Just a thought.


Why the Dressage Committee doesn’t just put its Big Boy pants on and try out a pilot program 3P contest to decide some winners AND make TV happy AND make the sport less ‘boring’…is beyond me. It could be short and exciting and a real boon for new sponsors and fans alike.


For sure the movements that require the highest engagement and collection and self-carriage are what make the GP what it is. Wolfram Wittig, who has said many wonderful comments, has said, “The higher the collection, the lighter the connection.”  And that pretty much sums up good GP. That’s what we want to see, right? Self-carriage and harmony and partnership–all tied up in a lovely package of max effort, elasticity, suppleness, expression and power.


What is important is that the partnership be visible, that harmony be felt by spectator and judge alike.  Adding more significance to the piaffe is rather like coming up with Degree of Difficulty for the freestyle: it can come down to what the horse finds easy and buying the horse that finds certain movements easy.

When talking about a Valegro or a Totilas, that is the whole enchilada: a horse that has been trained in such a way to make everything seem super and easy.  For sure, the rider still has to train the horse and make a partnership, or the whole picture falls apart, no matter how fancy. While obviously talented, neither of the two named superstars were earth-shattering as young horses: they were diamonds in the rough polished by fantastic training




The reality is that FEI and the DC for whatever their reasons have decided to mandate the sport. They start with what I consider several Big Lies and move on from there as a foundation.

Big Lie # 1: We need a coefficient for piaffe so we can watch better piaffes. Me: we need more emphasis on correct training so we can watch better transition, better riding, less heavy breathing and locked backs.

Big Lie # 2: the judging will be improved with computer system coefficient degree of difficulty,etc . Me: The piaffe fan is the way many trainers INTRODUCE piaffe and has been cleverly used by umpteen rider in the arena to mask the fact that their horses do not have enough forward and engagement to want to offer really good piaffe without this preparation (ie energy added by moving around/forward as well as on the spot). Just ask Hubertus Schmidt who has said he thinks about turning while doing every piaffe in a test because it helps the movement.

How the fan is a higher degree of difficulty is beyond me. They want difficulty? put the Schaukel back in. I say it again: we have a whole cottage industry growing up all designed to make money by re-inventing the sport. Why not just have one paid judge it at C, and then for sure the opinion will always be final and clear. (That’s like 97% of all dressage tests in the USA).

 This is a subjective sport. People who like the sport understand that the judges give informed opinions–nothing more, nothing less.

Except when cronyism and over-zealous patriotism and blindness get in the way, ho ho.

The reality is, the judging is the best it has ever been. It needs to continue to grow even better, sure, but all this ‘industry’ that exists promising to make it better just seems beside the point.


FEI never used to pay any attention to dressage–but now, a miracle! The kur is attracting sponsors and serious money. London 2012 certainly proved the drawing power of dressage. So now FEI is interested. Everyone wants some power over the sport but very few seem interested in actually improving the sport, just their pocketbooks.


FWIW, , in Germany recently at one of the big regional shows, the organizers granted the riders their biggest wish and hired all new judges. The riders complained that the regularly hired judges ‘knew’ the riders and scored accordingly. The riders demanded new judges in the interest of fairness. So what happened? The scores were ALL OVER THE PLACE, and the riders were –once again–upset and unhappy.

Link: http://www.dressuraktuell.de/module/news/news.asp?action=d&uid&kmi&did=2597&lg



Here is a clue : Dressage movements have many priorities and very few combinations actually have enough foundation to hit all or even most of those priorities. So the scores given will reflect that. As already noted, 1/2 point lower on several movements will make one judge seem much lower than another while scoring the same test.

This is a case of looking for the link that might be weak and open to pressure –and deciding it is the judges. Because if FEI goes after the riders, then there will be no sport–they do not like to be told anything bad even in clinics! And naturally, no one wants to upset the owners and sponsors. So that leaves the judges. It might become really interesting if the judges decide to go on strike for better treatment. ROFL.


6 Responses to “Dressage is a sport, right?”

  1. Leigh August 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

    wonderful points altogether, you just gained a new reader.
    What might you suggest about your post that you made a few
    days ago? Any positive?

    • horsesportnews August 17, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      Sorry to take so long to get back to you.
      There is an old saying, “It takes at least two lifetimes to become a horseman.”
      I do believe the sport is moving in the right direction, where training is starting to once again be rewarded. The charm of Valegro, the charm of Carl Hester horses, is that they are raised and live like horses–turned out, hacked, galloped, etc. These horses work through thei9r body and have fewer blockages than many others–and THAT is what the sport needs.
      More horses in balance and rhythm, partnered to riders who are effective in managing this.

  2. Genia August 9, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    I rarely write remarks, but i did some searching and wound up here Dressage
    is a sport, right? | horsesportnews. And I actually do have a couple of
    questions for you if you tend not to mind. Could it be only me or does it
    give the impression like some of the responses appear like they are left by brain dead people?
    😛 And, if you are posting on other online social sites, I’d like to keep up with everything new you have to post.
    Could you list of every one of all your community sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or
    linkedin profile?

    • horsesportnews August 17, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      HORSESPORTNEWS is on Facebook and Twitter, thanks for asking.

  3. Adan August 12, 2014 at 12:54 am #

    Good day! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your articles.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?
    Thanks a lot!

    • horsesportnews August 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

      Just search engine the words “horse sport news” and you will get lots of choices!

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