Carl Hester: New judging rules and a wicked Windsor [H&H VIP]

  • I see after a recent rant by an international grand prix rider on social media about marking that the issue of unacceptable gaps in judges’ marks still rages.

    This is not judge bashing as, after years of competing, we all know what a weight judges carry and how much influence they deliver — which is not done lightly.

    The gap in this particular rider’s scores — ranging from 61% to 71% — can be basically taken, in the first instance, as “Jolly good, you can just about complete a grand prix”, and in the second, “Congratulations, you win. Here’s a lot of prize-money!”

    One can understand her frustration. Maybe the FEI will have to think about how to fund having the Judging Supervisory Panel [JSP] at every CDI. I know it would be expensive, but it could be a suitable answer.

    When there is a JSP, very few marks get changed, but those that do can be influential. So for riders, scores are more acceptable and there is less room for complaint.

    A levelling rule?

    A new rule, which I understand is being implemented next year, will be that if the lowest mark is 6% or more below the second lowest, that lowest mark will be raised to match the the second lowest.

    So, for example, if three judges award plus-70%, judge four awards 70% and judge five 64%, the lowest score will be made up to equal judge four’s 70%. In that sort of situation — which was what happened to Michael Eilberg at last year’s European Championships, where his 65% would have been brought up to 71% — it would likely have changed the colour of the medals.

    I seem to remember some of the scoring at the Winter Olympics involved starting on a complete score, then having points deducted for mistakes or movements not completed.
    That seems a much more technical way of scoring, although the slopestyle event, which so impressed me, was judged on overall impression.

    To determine an overall impression score, six judges would take four criteria into consideration: the difficulty, amplitude, variety and execution of tricks, with extra consideration for the Olympic events given to a snowboarder’s trick combinations, risk, progression and course use. The official score for each run was the average of the judges’ scores. Interesting!

    Well done, Royal Windsor

    Over the past few years, British Dressage [BD] has been at the forefront of medals and success, so it’s fantastic that we could add a top international show to the calendar.

    Royal Windsor has superb footing, great stabling — though the horses didn’t get much sleep with the military displays and troops firing guns — and, with the sunshine, made for a top show (pictured, above).

    To add Hartpury and Hickstead to Windsor really brings us up to date with the top outdoor CDIs. These three shows need support and the participation of foreign riders and sponsors, as they are among the best in Europe.

    The success and support of BD was evident with packed stands, which we haven’t seen since our first medal success at Windsor Europeans in 2009. I even dusted off Tom Jones and followed in the same footsteps for my floorplan.

    More British team prospects appear to be taking shape. Charlotte [Dujardin] seems to have finally found the right gears on Uthopia and gave a superb performance in both tests. Michael Eilberg got a personal best on Half Moon Delphi in the freestyle and I was delighted to bring Nip Tuck to only his second international and come third.

    Nikki Crisp too was back to scoring plus-70% at international level on Pasoa and a handful of British riders were knocking on the 70% door.

    There is no better feeling than having had a horse from a year old and now seeing him on his way to becoming a good grand prix horse. Although not all of our horses will be individual medal winners, once again it is a reminder of how important attitude is; that attitude of the horse working for the rider.

    And not winning classes on the way — Nip Tuck was a tearaway as a youngster — hasn’t stopped him on the road to grand prix.

    This article was first published in the 22 May issue of Horse & Hound magazine