Dressage Controversial discussion alert! Do you think judges over inflate 'famous' rider scores?

shortstuff99

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Having been on the scoring team at an international comp, no they don’t inflate scores for names.

The best in the business just ride better, so they squeeze every mark they can from a test. The rubbish bits still score rubbish but they pull the score back up with accurate riding and making the good bits great 🤷🏼‍♀️.

It’s also worth reading the FEI marking system as it explains a lot about why certain moves score certain ways (the piaffe being one of them that can score highly even if it doesn’t look classical).
That really bugs me about piaffe, the moves that still get a good mark are as far away from a piaffe as can be. I feel like you wouldn't be able to do that for any other move, but as dressage has become more and more warmblood focused the definitions have changed over the years to allow for their weaknesses in certain movements.
 

Goldenstar

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Again I have not seen the clip but this is something that always confused me .
A piaffe that has rhythm , stays on the spot ,has good leg lift from the ground gets high marks even when the back is hollow and there’s little lowering of the hind quarters .
Its a bit above my level I don’t know how they break down a piaffe to get to a score but you often see this .
 

ycbm

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The problem is the piaffe/passage getting 9s and 10s when the back is hollow and there is no true collection 😬
I agree. And the video of the qualifying test is pretty much everything I dislike about modern top level spider dressage.

The horse seems to stay sound for a few competitions and then be off for another extended period. Then her return is trumpeted as a triumph when the truth appears to be that training at that level is breaking her. I haven't looked up all the reasons for her absences and I should before making that kind of comment, but it's my gut reaction.
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CanteringCarrot

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The problem is the piaffe/passage getting 9s and 10s when the back is hollow and there is no true collection 😬
I will say that Werth chooses horses that seem to have a certain type of conformation sometimes, a bit long in the back. They often look quite "dropped in the back" to me. I realize I am used to quite the opposite because every horse I have owned has been compact and short backed. My current one being the most extreme case 🤦‍♀️ so I have a certain amount of bias because Werth's horses are often a different type than my own/not my first preference. I am not a judge, and I am not even close to the international level, so just a mere pleb in my armchair over here, FWIW 🤣
 

CanteringCarrot

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I agree. And the video of the qualifying test is pretty much everything I dislike about modern top level spider dressage.

The horse seems to stay sound for a few competitions and then be off for another extended period. Then her return is trumpeted as a triumph when the truth appears to be that training at that level is breaking her. I haven't looked up all the reasons for her absences and I should before making that kind of comment, but it's my gut reaction.
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This is a good point that I often think about myself. It's my gut reaction too.
 

Goldenstar

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I will say that Werth chooses horses that seem to have a certain type of conformation sometimes, a bit long in the back. They often look quite "dropped in the back" to me. I realize I am used to quite the opposite because every horse I have owned has been compact and short backed. My current one being the most extreme case 🤦‍♀️ so I have a certain amount of bias because Werth's horses are often a different type than my own/not my first preference. I am not a judge, and I am not even close to the international level, so just a mere pleb in my armchair over here, FWIW 🤣
You are right she has had several long backed horses .
 

milliepops

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On the dressage bred types in the real world that WR mentions I don’t see this I have an ID and a big cob out and about at the moment and we are not seeing any negatively and are being very fairly judged . In fact I think the judges are extremely open minded with on non standard types .
The judging at the lower levels is better than I have ever seen .
Blue ( Blue is an ID /Clydesdale is out at Intro ( still have not got a party canter organised ) on Sunday seeing the arena etc there was a beautiful black warmblood with lovely paces a bit up a height ( natural, young horse having one of his first outings but not wild ) Blue beat it to win the class because he showed better rhythm
Sometimes a horse who is a big mover making errors will beat a more normal type because it may be scoring in a big range .
Those of us competing non dressage bred types do have to embrace the fact that’s it’s easier for dressage bred horses to get up off their fronts and bend their ribs and Sometimes that will get you beaten .
Have to agree with this, there is one judge known locally for being a complete snob about non-WBs and having been in the judge's pavilion at regionals listening to that individual bore on, I know it's not paranoia on behalf of the riders. When that judge is in the box I pick a score that I think I might get and turn it into a game.

Otherwise, I find that judges give the marks that are there fairly - it gets better and better as you go up the levels because the List 1s are not afraid to give a furry horse a great mark if it does great work.
 

shortstuff99

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Have to agree with this, there is one judge known locally for being a complete snob about non-WBs and having been in the judge's pavilion at regionals listening to that individual bore on, I know it's not paranoia on behalf of the riders. When that judge is in the box I pick a score that I think I might get and turn it into a game.

Otherwise, I find that judges give the marks that are there fairly - it gets better and better as you go up the levels because the List 1s are not afraid to give a furry horse a great mark if it does great work.
I wrote for a list 1 judge once for an FEI test, and when a PRE came said Spanish horses were only good for fiestas and had no place in dressage 😬.
 

RachelFerd

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I find dressage judging, and the variations within it, both fascinating and frustrating.

I'm on the BD trainee judges register and have attended quite a bit of online training this winter - more from a self development and education point of view than anything else. I've generally been impressed by what is clearly the intent within the training - but I've also understood that there can sometimes be significant variance in scores that different listed judges would give a movement based on their individual viewing of it and their individual priorities.

I don't envy the dressage judge at a BD show trying to fairly mark the big moving pro-ridden warmblood against my eventing fit croup high thoroughbred and against the 13hh super-compact welsh pony stallion. Those aren't easy to compare. But that isn't about the rider as much as the type of horse.

This weekend I had a pretty positive experience with dressage judging at Novice BE where I was a bit worried when I saw there were 5 Oli Townend entries and many other pros in my section - but post dressage, I was right in the mix and in front of quite a lot of smart young horses. No I didn't do an 'amazing' test, but it was mistake free and therefore judged accordingly.

Anyway... it's why I will never be able to take dressage results totally at face value unless scoring can be made be even more objective rather than subjective.
 

sportsmansB

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I think it would be really interesting to get a bank of judges from, say, the USA and bring them over to a national competition in England or Ireland, and see do the same people end up at the top of the class... It'll never happen cos its too expensive but it would be interesting. Bit more like a jury at a trial, where people are excluded if they know too much about the situation already...

I score, so I see a LOT of dressage tests, like 200-300 a week all season. Similar team of judges (varied as much as possible, but there are only a certain amount of listed judges available in the area)- there is no doubt that they know the riders, will remember the lovely test they did the week before and that will, unconciously at least, change their starting point for that combination.
Its just life with dressage isn't it.
 

paddi22

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it would be amazing if at some point in the future that had some kind of technology similar to facial recognition, that can picks relevant point on the horse body and analyse whether a move was technically correct, (taking into account conformation)! it would really show up horses going behind the vertical or moving too much in piaffe, or having hind legs that don't match from for extensions etc. if some system just analysed face, neck, leg, back angles for correct use?

I know a section would be needed for presence, suppleness, impulsion, wow factor , rider style etc, but it would be a great way of doing it using scientific methods as part of it.
 

honetpot

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I wrote for a list 1 judge once for an FEI test, and when a PRE came said Spanish horses were only good for fiestas and had no place in dressage 😬.
Some judges I do not write some things in the comments, if they ask I say I couldn't spell the word. Some are arses. If they are going to be rude they can do it in their own handwriting. I just refuse to engage with anyone who has no manners.
 

ihatework

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Some judges I do not write some things in the comments, if they ask I say I couldn't spell the word. Some are arses. If they are going to be rude they can do it in their own handwriting. I just refuse to engage with anyone who has no manners.
Can you give some examples?
This is quite surprising to me - I have written hundreds of tests and never had to write something that I felt was fundamentally rude.
For sure I’ve heard some questionable comments in conversation/privacy, I’m also not blind to human bias and done confusing judging. But I can hand on heart say, I haven’t had to write something awful on a sheet.
 

Tiddlypom

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For sure I’ve heard some questionable comments in conversation/privacy, I’m also not blind to human bias and done confusing judging. But I can hand on heart say, I haven’t had to write something awful on a sheet.
Same here.

The list 2 judge that I was writing for at a BE event was muttering about how 'disgraceful' it was that *senior and well known popular Team GB member* rode so badly, but that off the cuff observation was not intended to be included in the comments :oops:. I'd have shoved the sheet at them to write their own bleddy snarky remarks if they had.

They went on to complain to me that the rider had not smiled at them. 'How rude' they said.

I thought I'm not surprised that the rider is not smiling at you if you freely share what you think of them with random dressage writers.

I did go on to report this completely barking judge to the event organiser, as this was only one of 4 competitors that this judge had it in for. The reply was 'Oh dear, I knew that *judge's name* was batty but I didn't realise that they were that bad'.
 

milliepops

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OK have sat on hands for fear of being told I'm The Establishment Voice again... but having now watched the video of Bella Rose's GP test I find it hard to understand why people don't believe it merits a score equivalent to "good".

I accept the bad bits that DressageHub picked out of the GPS, they are not a neutral party let's say... but the thing that Isabell is so good at in THIS test is the transitions, they are almost all in seamless balance and harmony, whether it is one half pass to another, to the halt and reinback, piaffe to passage (amazing)... the horse has limited reach in terms of extension but what it has is balance and rhythm - those are all essentials in the scales of training and for me therefore ought to draw high marks.

some of those transitions are worth 10 marks in isolation. the final centre line is worth 60 marks... most of us are used to getting 10 marks for the final centre line and halt. she hoovered up a few 10s on that line.
I know I bang on about it but the distribution of marks in a test, and the attention of the rider to detail/particular strengths of the horse can swing a result in unexpected ways.

video here, have not found the GPS yet but just to illustrate, I do think this GP is worthy of "almost good"
https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1460510454119127

I have no idea whether Isabell got extra marks because of who she is, for my own sanity I don't go there... but I saw lots of very skilled correct work in that full test.

the full results are here, if you click her name you can see the individual scores from judges for each movement. she got the 4s for the mistakes in the 1 tempis etc, in the GPS too, that is correct to me... I'll not repeat earlier discussions on the piaffe :p you can all buy the FEI handbook and see what that says, take it up with them :cool:
https://results.equestrian-hub.com/show/730
 

splashgirl45

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i have written for many judges at all levels and havent come across bias for the more well known riders. the higher level riders tests even with a couple of mistakes make up the marks by being so good in the other movements. isobel werth is a master at accuracy and completing most of the movements brilliantly so can get away with the odd mistake....whenever i get to see high class dressage i make notes about the tests for my own amusement, i almost always agree with stephen clarkes judging and as he is often the senior judge i think i am pretty much on the right track...
 

DabDab

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You are the establishment view MP, because you buy into the system as it is. I'm the establishment view in certain things in life because I buy into them - but I am absolutely aware that I'm much much more likely to gloss over, defend or be blase about issues that other people see because ultimately I buy into the bigger picture...ergo establishment. Anyways....

I think you're right in that the perception more often than not pops up as a result of a numbers game. A movement that most spectators would barely notice has mega points associated with it, whereas a mistake that is glaringly obvious to anyone watching actually only results in the loss of 4 or 5 marks over a 300? mark test. I don't think the powers that be have got the scores or the 'ideal' in dressage quite right in terms of public perception, but it is what it is and the judges and riders work within that.

That being said, I would be gobsmacked if there wasn't some level of unconscious bias that goes on. Judges would have to be super human to completely avoid it.
 

milliepops

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the higher level riders tests even with a couple of mistakes make up the marks by being so good in the other movements. i
yeah there's not really a surprise there, is there... top level professionals who make a living doing this, are better at it than the rest of us!! ;) in ways that we possibly don't always notice until it's pointed out.
you see new faces rise up through the sport now and then and really smash the high levels, again this should be expected, it should be happening, probably not that frequently because it's so flipping difficult :p
 

milliepops

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I think you're right in that the perception more often than not pops up as a result of a numbers game. A movement that most spectators would barely notice has mega points associated with it, whereas a mistake that is glaringly obvious to anyone watching actually only results in the loss of 4 or 5 marks over a 300? mark test. I don't think the powers that be have got the scores or the 'ideal' in dressage quite right in terms of public perception, but it is what it is and the judges and riders work within that.
460 marks in the GP, if you include the "general impression" collectives.
it's a lesson in not getting hung up on a mistake you make in the middle of the test, that's for sure. I know if I fluff my tempis then I have to work really hard to not still be thinking about that in the next movement.

I don't think I gloss over things.. i think if you want to take part you either suck it up as is or try and change things ;) I suck it up, i'm not ever going to be the next big thing so if Isabelle gets an extra 2% for being *her* tbh it doesn't affect me at my local show so I'm not motivated to be petitioning the FEI to change things
 

Goldenstar

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Atm one of my horse is out with a pro on board .
Hes an ID and he has not been out BD elementary yet but has scored 28 points at novice in three outings ( 6 tests ).
So it’s fair to say I am happy with him .
We dipped our toe in the water at an unaffiliated elementary this weekend it’s a big step it’s longer everything comes up so much quicker and I really saw for the first time how a pro helps a horse when they need their hand held a lot .
When the horse struggled ,he helped ,guided and encouraged he kept riding the movements ,he did not throw any marks way he rode with great calmness and gave the horse confidence to keep working .
Now of course there are amateurs who ride like that but pro gets to be pro because they are good at what they do .
 
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splashgirl45

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yeah there's not really a surprise there, is there... top level professionals who make a living doing this, are better at it than the rest of us!! ;) in ways that we possibly don't always notice until it's pointed out.
you see new faces rise up through the sport now and then and really smash the high levels, again this should be expected, it should be happening, probably not that frequently because it's so flipping difficult :p
its very difficult, almost impossible for the ordinary rider (most of us) to compete with the elite riders who have the money to buy megga horses and the time to devote to training. my friend managed to get to gp and had some success with her ordinary horse and had to do every movement better than the elite as her horse didnt have megga movement. it was a bit soul destroying to see her do a good accurate test with no mistakes to find her down the placings after horses who had made mistakes, we always joked and said it was character building:D
 

milliepops

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its very difficult, almost impossible for the ordinary rider (most of us) to compete with the elite riders who have the money to buy megga horses and the time to devote to training. my friend managed to get to gp and had some success with her ordinary horse and had to do every movement better than the elite as her horse didnt have megga movement. it was a bit soul destroying to see her do a good accurate test with no mistakes to find her down the placings after horses who had made mistakes, we always joked and said it was character building:D
I've mentioned it before, but I hang onto this in moments where i feel like the odds are stacked against us - my trainer told me that with the competitive advantages that pro riders have (horsepower, time, training etc) they ought to be thrashing us by 20% not 5%...
it's actually quite an achievement that one-horse amateur riders with full time jobs etc can stand up to the pros in this sport, particularly at the higher levels, they might be the ones who take all the prizes but to not be laughed out of the ring is something :p
there are lots of sports where it woudn't be thinkable.
 

splashgirl45

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agree MP, its a great achievement to be in the placings and my friend had many successes and never disgraced herself. she also had a full time job and limited time and money, she really worked hard for her success and i really admire her for never giving up...and also admire you as you have done the same with your lovely horse., i have enjoyed watching your videos as well
 

milliepops

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I've a few peers & friends fitting in non-standard horses around full time jobs who are at, or knocking on GP and I'm so inspired :D
I dunno, can only speak for myself, but if I get there I think I'll be blown away by having done it and so again not fussed if Charlotte rinses me on the scoreboard, haha.
 

Birker2020

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Side controversial alert, sorry the video is via dressage hub.

Werth recently competed Bella Rose for the first time in 18 months winning the GP special with over 80%, however the test really wasn't that good with a lot of errors. This brings up the discussion of do judges sometimes over score famous riders?

I think they sometimes do, whether it is conscious or unconscious I'm not sure of. This is where I think a system of judging like gymnastics of ice skating would help with this.

What are your thoughts?

https://fb.watch/5hk1z8FjAN/
I don't care what anyone says, judges cannot remain impartial to certain things. That is my personal belief.
I will probably get shot for saying that but I do believe this is true. Sorry.
 

LEC

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I always like reading Eurodressage for their summary as tends to be on face value. Eurodressage was very scathing of the pre lockdown Keysoe scores for Charlotte and Carl. Interesting in Hagen they seemed to score appropriately.

There is a lot of gamesmanship at top level dressage. Going to certain national events and not competing against other big names in order to get the high scores before you go to a championship. I find it kind of fascinating.
 
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