While there are many examples of horses being overqualified for their level in the dressage phase (I’m looking at you, person who scored a 16 in a Novice test), at the upper levels I believe that there must be some allowances made for slight disobediences caused by the extreme fitness that a horse must have to run the cross country the next day. Therefore, I am happy to see that at least the British Dressage Officials have made an attempt to loosen the regulations on such behaviors within an Eventing Dressage test.
FEI judges Judy Harvey and Nick Burton sent a note to all judges who will be officiating this year in British horse trials, and commented that due to different fitness regimes and therefore musculature, Event horses will “rarely be able to show the looseness characteristic of the Grand Prix horse and therefore their paces are unlikely to be as extravagant.” However, this is not to say that an extraordinarily well performed dressage test should not be rewarded well above the rest, in order for the margins of performance to stay intact.
They go on to say that “Event horses are very fit and sharp enough to run for their lives. Minor disobedience and keenness should not be punished too severely….Distractions such as close proximity to the show jumping and cross country should also be taken into account. If a horse is presented showing good training and way of going and does cope with the environment then it should be rewarded with very high marks. Remember 10 is only excellent.”
I have many a time experienced a young horse bobbling on some un-even footing, or even having to complete their dressage test on the side of a hill, and therefore I very much appreciated their additional note about the allowance for footing. While I’m sure that heavy and deep footing affects the British Eventers much more than the US, it would still be nice to know that we had a similar note within our own judging system. They explain that as we all know, the surface in a horse trials is not always ideal, and horses should not be heavily penalized for loss of rhythm when crossing a rutted center line or the like.
What do you think, Eventing Nation? Do you think that Dressage has become so good that we don’t need to make allowances for things such as fitness, footing, and cross country jumps? Or do you fall with me, on the side that appreciates a singular squeal of enthusiasm during a flying change, or a little bit of a gawk in the final halt? My horse, after 8 years together, has finally accepted the necessity of the first phase, but I know that there are many upper level horses who excel in the other two but just can’t quite bring themselves to give that extra degree of submission in the sand rectangle, and I don’t believe they should be harshly judged for such actions.