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

NinjaPony

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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.
All very true. My best ever score came from a list 1 judge, on my furry little Connemara. Some judges definitely don’t approve of non warmbloods, I’ve had a disparity of 7% on the same test between two judges at a petplan, with cars parked side by side so no ‘different angle’ to consider.
 

nikkimariet

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Absolutely, yes. Happens at local level too without a shadow of a doubt.

Competitor A is chummy with Judge B and miraculously always gets their personal best scores with them. See it a lot. It’s still worse in showing!

Thankfully I’m not left scratching my head too often at my not so heady heights of dressage lol.
 

shortstuff99

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It seems as if there is at least the perception that dressage judging is biased (and I think some of it is), I wonder what would be the best way to deal with it?

I like the idea earlier of having some sort of AI that could do it, or for the big events could drop the highest and lowest scores like they do for many other sports.
 

ycbm

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It seems as if there is at least the perception that dressage judging is biased (and I think some of it is), I wonder what would be the best way to deal with it?

I like the idea earlier of having some sort of AI that could do it, or for the big events could drop the highest and lowest scores like they do for many other sports.

Drop the highest and lowest would be my choice.
 

milliepops

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FWIW i think an AI solution could be extremely interesting from a learning POV but I would not welcome it in competition, a few reasons... started with gut instinct :p but that's worthy of examination -

For me i think dressage judging is a bit of a cross-over discipline that is partly science and partly art, bringing a computerised "objective" (?) element into it sort of takes away from the role of the judge which for me has value that i would not want to see stripped away.
but I accept I come at this from a POV of believing judges are in it for the good of the sport and not to advance an agenda ... appreciate not everyone will agree.

there's a few things where top judges have said that what actually happens is immaterial so long as the eye believes it is seeing what it does, this would take account of DAP+ for example, where the eye sees the trot as diagonal pairs but the camera can spot a hindleg hitting the ground before the opposite foreleg. If the eye believes it's a 2 beat pace, it's scored as a correct pace. I think that's OK personally, you often see DAP+ in particularly uphill horses.

Someone mentioned matching front and hindlegs in extension - well, you'd need to apply some kind of awkward accepted range to that - very very moderate extension could be totally matching but not very good, an exceptional extension may have very active engaged hindlegs and an even more expressive (non matching) front leg... which is better? the eye susses that better IMO.

For me I think that gut feel is important on a micro level actually because judges are having to make those snap decisions in seconds all the time.. JMHO :cool:
 

Goldenstar

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My horsey partner in crime is a judge .
On memorable day she judged me in a section BE I did not notice it was her and she did not know it was me until she went to look at the score board .
 

paddi22

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I can kind of see your point m,illiepops. would the equivalent be someone getting a dance routine, learning it, hitting all the moves exactly, but it just looks robotic and like a aerobics class. but then a looser, more powerful dancer comes in and makes it look more expressive, emotional and beautiful, but might not be technically hitting the exact correct angles?
 

shortstuff99

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FWIW i think an AI solution could be extremely interesting from a learning POV but I would not welcome it in competition, a few reasons... started with gut instinct :p but that's worthy of examination -

For me i think dressage judging is a bit of a cross-over discipline that is partly science and partly art, bringing a computerised "objective" (?) element into it sort of takes away from the role of the judge which for me has value that i would not want to see stripped away.
but I accept I come at this from a POV of believing judges are in it for the good of the sport and not to advance an agenda ... appreciate not everyone will agree.

there's a few things where top judges have said that what actually happens is immaterial so long as the eye believes it is seeing what it does, this would take account of DAP+ for example, where the eye sees the trot as diagonal pairs but the camera can spot a hindleg hitting the ground before the opposite foreleg. If the eye believes it's a 2 beat pace, it's scored as a correct pace. I think that's OK personally, you often see DAP+ in particularly uphill horses.

Someone mentioned matching front and hindlegs in extension - well, you'd need to apply some kind of awkward accepted range to that - very very moderate extension could be totally matching but not very good, an exceptional extension may have very active engaged hindlegs and an even more expressive (non matching) front leg... which is better? the eye susses that better IMO.

For me I think that gut feel is important on a micro level actually because judges are having to make those snap decisions in seconds all the time.. JMHO :cool:
It is a very complicated situation. I think judging still seems so mysterious and random to most competitors I can see where a lot of frustration comes from.

Maybe creating some kind of easy to follow judging notes would help. Or a more standard marking way of, for example, being on the wrong leg is always -4 points, a loss of balance -1 point etc.?
 

milliepops

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I can kind of see your point m,illiepops. would the equivalent be someone getting a dance routine, learning it, hitting all the moves exactly, but it just looks robotic and like a aerobics class. but then a looser, more powerful dancer comes in and makes it look more expressive, emotional and beautiful, but might not be technically hitting the exact correct angles?
Yes I think for me, part of the attraction of it is the stuff that's hard to quantify, the ease, lightness, harmony, connection, expression, joy of movement... trying to compute that somehow would take away the magic of *performance* , the thing that gives you goosebumps is how you feel, not always what it's 100% technically spot on.
 

milliepops

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It is a very complicated situation. I think judging still seems so mysterious and random to most competitors I can see where a lot of frustration comes from.

Maybe creating some kind of easy to follow judging notes would help. Or a more standard marking way of, for example, being on the wrong leg is always -4 points, a loss of balance -1 point etc.?
So I've harped on about this before but the FEI guidelines for judging are literally that. But it does cost about £40.
 

milliepops

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Guess it boils down to how much you want to know 😂 its thicker than the rule book which is saying something these days, and they don't even give you a paper copy of that now 😅
 

shortstuff99

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Guess it boils down to how much you want to know 😂 its thicker than the rule book which is saying something these days, and they don't even give you a paper copy of that now 😅
I'm hoping to start my judge training soon so maybe I will splurge out on it, guess it will keep me occupied 🤣
 

McFluff

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I personally hate the idea of an AI solution.... but there were proposals to drop the highest and lowest scores, there was a fair bit of debate about it, here was Wayne Channon's take on it

https://www.eurodressage.com/2015/03/02/wayne-channon-disaster-waiting-happen
Thank you for sharing this. I found that interesting, and his solution of dropping the high and low scores for each movement makes sense at the top comps. Can’t see it working at lower levels though.
but what is the code of points he refers too?
 

milliepops

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Thank you for sharing this. I found that interesting, and his solution of dropping the high and low scores for each movement makes sense at the top comps. Can’t see it working at lower levels though.
but what is the code of points he refers too?
Essentially a more developed version of the existing guidelines to fill in the gaps, learning from other performance-type sports who have used e.g. video footage to define scoring criteria. I'm not sure it has really progressed tbh..
 

splashgirl45

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if more people volunteered to write at events i think it would help with understanding how the judges make their decisions. i used to compete and sometimes felt that i should have been placed higher, once i started writing i realised why someone else could get higher marks. in the last few years i have been writing for unaffiliated dressage and realise how difficult it is to be fair. one horse comes in no where near on the bit but does every movement at the marker , makes no mistakes and is straight down the centre line and halts square. next horse is crooked, misses the markers circles are wrong shape and size but horse is in more of a shape but rider has firm hold so not harmonious., the first horse scores higher because judge is looking at the whole picture but all the onlookers focus on is first horse is not in a shape and second horse is.....its difficult to explain on paper but hope it makes sense....
 

milliepops

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if more people volunteered to write at events i think it would help with understanding how the judges make their decisions. i used to compete and sometimes felt that i should have been placed higher, once i started writing i realised why someone else could get higher marks. in the last few years i have been writing for unaffiliated dressage and realise how difficult it is to be fair. one horse comes in no where near on the bit but does every movement at the marker , makes no mistakes and is straight down the centre line and halts square. next horse is crooked, misses the markers circles are wrong shape and size but horse is in more of a shape but rider has firm hold so not harmonious., the first horse scores higher because judge is looking at the whole picture but all the onlookers focus on is first horse is not in a shape and second horse is.....its difficult to explain on paper but hope it makes sense....
yeah and works the other way round sometimes too, e.g. onlookers see one whoopsie and think the whole test should be marked down when in fact it's just one tiny part and fairly inconsequential.

I find writing so useful too, there have been occasions where a name comes in the ring, everyone expects a great test and then things unravel and the judge is explaining why the score can't be higher than what they are giving - thinking out loud I suppose, but interesting to hear the thought process. I mainly write at champs now as I don't have a lot of free time and i also really get a lot from writing at a different position because some things are totally hidden and others are properly visualised. the politics of deferring to the C judge is interesting too ;) I think judging on a panel must feel very different to being the only one there on the day.
 

Roxylola

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I've done some online dressage recently which has the advantage of being recorded from C. Obviously nowhere near the level we are talking about here but things as simple as a 10m loop, I was getting comments initially that they were not 10m, now I was convinced I rode to X but when I watch the video I don't quite get there, not hugely but its not perfect. Now I ride more accurately and the marks have of course improved. That is 2 movements both improved by a full mark just by riding accurately.
Any top rider will ride through their tests and I'd expect video from C to watch back for where marks could be picked up just by being accurate etc
 

milliepops

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I've done some online dressage recently which has the advantage of being recorded from C. Obviously nowhere near the level we are talking about here but things as simple as a 10m loop, I was getting comments initially that they were not 10m, now I was convinced I rode to X but when I watch the video I don't quite get there, not hugely but its not perfect. Now I ride more accurately and the marks have of course improved. That is 2 movements both improved by a full mark just by riding accurately.
Any top rider will ride through their tests and I'd expect video from C to watch back for where marks could be picked up just by being accurate etc
yes it's interesting isn't it because often you see people saying not to practice your tests because the horse might anticipate the movements. But the only way you really e.g. nail a turn onto the CL time after time is to practice it! you only learn the muscle memory of riding the moves by doing them, and often the way they link together in a particular test will affect how they ride, so just being able to produce a 8m circle is one thing, but producing one from the CL after a shoulder-in is another thing entirely!

FWIW i do think horses can learn tests to a degree... but for me the benefit of rehearsing the movements in chunks to develop the feel of riding accurately is worth more than the risk that my horse will know we are going to halt somewhere.
 

Roxylola

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I don't ever ride a full test as practise normally, but maybe I would if I were doing a GP internationally. Either way I do practise movements eg canter circles at e or b, 10 or 15m circles etc. Youd be mad not to video from c at that level, even with a trainer watching and advising its not the same as seeing it back for yourself
 

milliepops

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The thing I find useful about riding the whole test through is feeling how long the petrol is going to last :oops: Up to PSG it's been ok but Kira-Stumpy-Legs finds the I1 more effort and finishing with an extended trot after 23 movements is a bit of an ask... i'd deffo be riding the whole thing a good few times before going out again.

test riding clinics are so useful for the accuracy bits though, having someone neutral tell you "not good enough" and going back over and over until you get it right is a good way to drum it in :p

but yes
even with a trainer watching and advising its not the same as seeing it back for yourself
this is a good point, there's something about being dispassionately honest with yourself that is very useful.
 

YorkshireLady

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Really interesting discussion. I think that the marks that are x2 and x3 in the GP really do make a difference as others have said. Also IW does have horses that are not always my favourite stamp....but my goodness how many has she trained to the top level? Also as MP I think said her test riding and transitions are the best.....as often is her zig zag flow.

I think Judges are human and when they are at say the Olympics they are going to have an idea in their head of how the horses have been all year - most of them prob already judged them....and to some extent there are medals to lose as well as win. However i do not think they just throw marks at IW or CJD.

Can work the other way as well - with them expecting a certain thing from a combination and not getting it...in general I think they do a good job of getting top 3 right.

However I do like Bella Rose and always have. I think she had a pretty serious injury and its a minor miracle she can compete i think and prob says alot for management from IW rather than saying its a negative of her training she was injured at all. She is not the horse she was pre injury and you can see that in some of the pre and post videos....and I do wonder if IW also protects her to some extent.
 

tristar

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I can kind of see your point m,illiepops. would the equivalent be someone getting a dance routine, learning it, hitting all the moves exactly, but it just looks robotic and like a aerobics class. but then a looser, more powerful dancer comes in and makes it look more expressive, emotional and beautiful, but might not be technically hitting the exact correct angles?
yes and how to differentiate between the value of two methods of training, and how they appear in reality, and which do we value the most
 

oldie48

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On those occasions that the audience can post scores and they get compared to the judges score it's interesting to note how much more the audience punishes mistakes with the audience score generally coming in lower than the judges. Also with the higher level tests, I doubt that an untrained person, however keen and knowledgeable, would be able to keep up with the pace at which the the different elements of the test are assessed and marked. Of course there are crap judges, just as there are crap riders but tbh I really dislike judge bashing. We all have our personal preferences which make us biased, we sometimes see what we want to see but I suspect that an experienced higher level judge is a lot less biased than we would be and for someone to take the time to string together the mistakes in a test to make public, just feels wrong to me. Surely someone who was trying to be fair would show the test in it's entirety?
 

Foxglove

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Yes, I have followed Dressage Hub and on occasion can see that some of the posts provoke thought but on the whole there always seem to be an agenda. Her constant criticism of Some of the riders at Wellington this year was bordering on the cruel and unnecessary. She is also very good at editing the bad bits together to give the perception that a result has been given unfairly.

It’s a shame really as it detracts from some of the more more educational posts
 
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