British Dressage (BD) has sent new guidelines to listed judges, asking them to consider the implications of an event horse’s fitness when judging at horse trials.

It follows feedback from grass-roots riders that they have been marked harshly, said BD’s Paul Graham.

Judges are being asked to consider fitness and surroundings when witnessing “minor disobediences” from BE80 to advanced.

They are also asked to think about the “different musculature” that is required for cross-country and its effect on looseness and paces.

They are also encouraged to use the full scale of marks and to be positive with comments.

“Judges don’t set out to be wicked, but it can be disheartening to start the day with heavy criticism,” said Judy Harvey, who drew up the guidelines with Mr Graham and fellow judge Nick Burton.

Amy Blackledge-Smith, a BE100 competitor from Maidstone, Kent, told H&H she welcomed the guidelines.

“There can be a lot going on and I’ve lost valuable marks when my horse has been distracted,” she said. “This sounds reasonable and will please a lot of lower level competitors,” she said.

Mr Graham added that the guidelines were not designed to imply a difference in the scales of training for dressage and event horses.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (4 April 2013)