Following the classical scales of training, we want to see a balanced, obedient and supple horse, moving with fluency, and most of all, regularity in all three paces.
For the rider, there is an extra dimension in presenting a fit event horse in an atmosphere, but as judges we don’t set different standards to pure dressage. The only place we might make allowances is the quality of the paces, but from a training point of view it’s the same.
There are three particularly difficult parts of this test. The first is the second movement, the medium trot dogleg. If you’re on a horse which doesn’t move it feels endless, while on a good mover the challenge is keeping the evenness of the steps.
It’s an interesting movement because the rider has to decide how much risk to take — it’s not all about being flamboyant, but about the consistency from start to finish. I remember judging Hinrich Romeike on Marius — he was a master at knowing how much to push quite an average mover.
The second pressure point is the flying change after the extended canter. The extension needs to show balance and power, then the rider must get the horse back to change — before the end of the diagonal so it doesn’t happen late.
Finally, the canter serpentine can be confusing, because the first three loops have no flying changes and the fourth and fifth do. The horse can be either taken by surprise by the changes or have rehearsed them so much they anticipate them.
Remember the judges all have different viewpoints and that will contribute to mark differences. For example, from C, I can judge suppleness and straightness, but assessing balance is harder. The long side judge has a better view if the horse is out of balance — but not such a good position for bend and straightness.
Ref: H&H 7 May, 2015