Carl Hester: Judging by numbers — no to Drexit *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    At the FEI World Cup final in Omaha, Katrina Wüst explained to a group of us top riders what the International Dressage Riders Club (IDRC) seems to have in mind for the future of judging. We all agreed it was very worrying.

    I have nothing against a code of points as guidance for judges. There has already been much hard work towards producing guidelines and a code of points to give clear advice on the more difficult parts of judging. The starting set of guidelines was agreed in January by a group of five-star judges. But what is under discussion now is a system based on the idea of starting with a mark of 10 and deducting points according to a strict formula.

    How can you start from 10 for a horse that is not capable of earning a 10?

    After Eric Lette’s work as chairman of the FEI dressage committee in the 1990s to highlight the positives and drag judging away from “policing mistakes”, and then all the work that went into producing the comprehensive FEI handbook (Guidelines for Judges, headed by the next FEI committee chairman, Mariette Withages), is the FEI now seriously looking at a system which seems to be starting from a point of negativity; looking for what’s wrong not for what’s right?

    The worst case scenario is a return to the correct, but “clockwork mouse” type of test with suppleness, elasticity and expression secondary, or even out of the window altogether.

    Riders — speak up!

    There is another problem. This coding system is being pushed forward by Wayne Channon, secretary general of IDRC. This is a body that is supposed to represent the riders, but how many of us are actively involved? If you don’t like what you’re reading here then for goodness sake join, and make your opinion known.

    The IDRC can only hold a mandate for riders if we join. If you don’t have time yourself, contact the FEI riders’ rep Anna Paprocka-Campanella, who is designated to put riders’ views to the FEI and hopefully will have a transparent route to voicing those views to the FEI channels. Her details are here, if you look hard enough for them: inside.fei.org/myfeidirectory

    I’ve only seen a small example of Wayne’s code and I found it very difficult to understand. It hasn’t been tried or tested, yet at the FEI Sports Forum in March the FEI put forward an “ideal timeline” leading to implementation and testing next year, and introduction in 2019!

    The time for consultation, from May to August this year, is way too short, but it is a chance for all stakeholders to voice their concerns over proposals that could radically change our sport, and not for the better.

    The FEI’s dressage director Bettina de Rham asserted that only the judges objected. That is fake news. The organisers’ and trainers’ clubs, along with all the national federations at the Sports Forum, objected too.

    I have no objection to development of our sport, but to me that means education not the introduction of radical, unproven analytics and apps.

    Dressage is about the partnership between horse and rider; that is what we work on every day at home and what we strive to show in competition. At its best this is what brings tears to the eyes of spectators. So please FEI, think # twohearts, not satisfying the aims of a small minority trying to quantify the unquantifiable. Our sport — including horses, riders, judges, officials and spectators — is worth more than that. It’s that or Drexit.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 6 July 2017