Expert advice from HORSE magazine on how to train to become a dressage judge
Q: I’ve done quite a bit of dressage and I love watching horses training. I was thinking about becoming a dressage judge. Can you tell me how I can get started?
Alison Craig BHSI replies:. Becoming a dressage judge is a really good way of increasing your understanding of dressage training for all types of horses. It is also a hugeresponsibility – competitors may set great store by what you say on the test sheets about their horses, so you will need to prepare thoroughly and carefully.
Initially, offer to sit in or write for some dressage judges, and watch what they do- and don’t do, and what they say – and don’t say. Then, progress to sitting-in in the back of the car with the higher listed judges (six is the lowest and one the highest).
You must be absolutely quiet – the rule is only speak when you are spoken to, as the concentration required by the judge is immense. But, judges are human, too, and it can be a fascinating and enjoyable thing to do.
If, after this, you still like the idea of becoming a trainee judge yourself, you can take more formal steps. First, you must be a member of British Dressage, tel: (02476) 698 830 for joining details.
Then, you register your interest in undertaking judge training, which will cost you £10 and lasts for two years.
You will be given the name of your regional judge training co-ordinator, who will notify you of all judge training sessions in your area. Go to as many of these as you can to gain a full understanding of what is required.
You should also attend the Regional and, ifpossible, National Judges Seminars.
Finally, you’ll take part in sitting-in and practise-judging at competitions, and then you can put yourself forward for the big day – judge testing. If you pass, you will go onto List six and you’re off!
You can’t take your eyes off the horse and rider for a split second in case that is the moment that something happens which could affect the mark you give.
You will also need confidence in yourself, a lot of patience, kindness, the courage to make difficult split-second decisions, a thick skin to take the occasional complaints from riders who may not have received the mark they feel they deserved and a wonderful bladder to cope with long judging sessions and loos which might be miles away!
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