I’m often asked what the judges are looking for at Badminton when I sit on a ground jury. The answer is correctly trained horses — judges are really just assessors of training. We take mistakes into account, but really we’re seeking quality in the way of going and correct paces.
We judge each exercise in the test in accordance with the scales of training: rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection. Collection is relative to the level of the test and we don’t expect the same degree of collection from an event horse, who is bred to gallop and jump, as we do from a dressage horse.
Overall this test has good lines and flows well. It can demonstrate if horses can bend equally on both reins and can show the ability to lengthen and shorten and stay on the aids.
In the trot, the shoulder-in each way on the quarter-line is quite short. Horses don’t have the support of the long side to help them. If riders lose the quarters at the beginning of the movement, then the mark is quickly gone.
The half-pass lines in trot travel quite a long way across the arena, which allows supple, well-trained horses to move fluently and show expression.
Some of the best walks are from thoroughbreds, but to have a horse relaxed, stretching out to the bit and covering the ground is challenging with a fit eventer.
In the canter, the first flying changes in movements 15 and 18 require control and precision. Riders must remember the importance of the transition to collected canter so they must show the transition and then ride the change, which should be placed on the final stride of the diagonal line.
Some say the 20m circle with the horse stretching is not an interesting movement for a five-star test, but few horses genuinely stretch forward and relax over the back. If done well, this is an easy place to gain marks — we want to see horses gradually seeking the contact forwards and down.
New this year is the fact that eventing has done away with having four collective marks. Now there is just one mark, for overall impression of athlete and horse, with a co-efficient of two. In international dressage, this last mark is just for the rider, but that’s not the case in eventing; this mark must reflect a balance of the entire performance.
My personal view is that it’s a shame to lose the collectives as one could mark paces, impulsion, submission and the rider separately and in doing so, you could identify the strengths and point out any weaknesses, with supportive comments. Now, the mark is likely simply to reflect the average score of the test and so it’s almost a bit pointless.
That said, I’ve judged international dressage with just the rider mark and it has worked fine, so perhaps that will be the case without collectives in eventing too — we will see!
Ref Horse & Hound; 25 April 2019