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Dressage changes could make sport more accessible

Dressage competitions will be judged more accurately, consistently and openly in the future if changes proposed to the sport are approved later this month.

A dressage taskforce (DTF) set up to bring dressage in line with mainstream sports wants judges continually educated, assessed and supervised.

It also proposed that seven — rather than five as at present — judge at major championships to spread the influence of individual scores.

“Education is necessary, even for a judge of 20 years’ [standing],” said Frank Kempermann, a member of the DTF formed last November by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).

“A supervisory panel should advise the FEI on the promotion or relegation of judges, and be able to change an [erroneous] mark during the test.”

The DTF was tasked with overhauling a sport deemed as impenetrable to outsiders.

It was also asked to decide the make up of a new, fully representational FEI dressage committee to take the changes forward.

The last committee — ordered to stand down last year by FEI president Princess Haya — consisted almost entirely of judges.

To make the sport more accessible, the DTF proposed sweeping changes to championship formats.

“The best nations must be able to field their reserve team rider as an individual [taking rider numbers from three back up to four],” said Mr Kempermann.

The first two days of any dressage competition would decide the team result, with the best 30 through to day two running in reverse order of merit to ensure the last 12 decided the team result.

“It’s a tailormade product for television,” he added.

There would only be one individual medal, decided by the freestyle — which judges would mark separately for technical execution and artistic performance.

The DTF also suggests using half-marks in all competition — which national federations could adopt if they wish.

British rider Maria Eilberg welcomed the plans and said half-marks are a “brilliant idea”.

The FEI will debate and approve the proposals at its AGM on 17-19 November.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (12 November, ’09)

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