Anna Ross: ‘collective marks should not exist and have no place in our subjective sport’ *H&H VIP*

  • For those that are “napping” on the subject of change, there is no doubt that we have to do something to increase transparency in judging if we wish to remain an Olympic sport after Tokyo.

    This year alone I’ve had differences of 6% and 7% in scores in international grands prix, and, in the Nations Cup in Compiègne, a 23-place difference between judges.

    These are exactly the kind of anomalous results used by the Olympic committees to criticise our sport.

    Depending on their physical viewpoint, some judges can’t see the whole horse at points. This is why we have a panel sitting in different places and should expect marks to vary, within reason; there is no point having a panel of judges if we want them all to give the same marks.

    If that were the case, we could just have one.

    I’m not deluding myself that the highest-scoring judges are always the most correct, but a 7% and 23-place difference within a single panel is too much.

    In my case, the common link was that the lower-scoring judges had never judged us as a combination before (which could be coincidental), and both used many sixes.

    I don’t think Princess (Die Callas) and I do much for a six. If a movement comes off, it’s generally of quality and worthy of seven or more.

    And when it doesn’t? Well, let’s just say it really doesn’t, and a six wouldn’t be appropriate then either!

    A difference of 7% out of 100% isn’t actually a great deal. The problem is that most dressage tests are judged between 60% and 70% — within 10% of each other — meaning the 7% becomes disproportionately influential and defines a good result from a poor one.

    ‘Collectives shouldn’t exist’

    The proposed code of points, with greater increments of scores, would help divide the minutiae.

    Another suggestion from the “half man-half computer” statistical genius and advisor to our sport, David Stickland from Global Dressage Analytics, is the “hi-lo drop”, which involves removing the highest and lowest scores per movement. This was effective when applied using actual results and led to fewer differentials and more logical results. This could be implemented quickly — with or without the new code of points.

    Collective marks should not exist and have no place in our already subjective sport. They are unnecessary and artificially raise or lower scores, which have already been calculated on the merits of the test.

    Equestrian sport is unique in that we have young, old, men, women, able-bodied and disabled competing against each other. We have great acceptance of differing sexual preferences within our community; most of us are more interested in our horses’ performances than what happens after evening stables.

    As a group, we are a terrific example of the Olympic spirit of inclusivity and tolerance, and this should be celebrated and used in the argument to remain so.

    Go forth and change

    British dressage has never been so robust, with several combinations able to score over 70% at grand prix.

    Whoever secures the elusive fourth Olympic place, with this depth, those that Team GBR will leave behind could form a competitive team that many other nations would love to field.

    But, after Tokyo, those riders may not have another chance if we don’t embrace change now. Some people like change, while others will always resist it. But if we wish to stay in the Olympics, our judging system has to change. There is no choice. To achieve this, we must keep in mind the first fundamental of dressage training: go forward.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 23 June 2016