Silence is Golden

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A scribe asked me recently why there’s a deduction for “use of voice” because, after all, voice aids are a valid training tool. That rule’s been around dressage shows as long as I have (more than four decades), so I don’t know the origin. But, I can take a guess.

If the judge hears a rider use her voice, it’s a mandatory two-point deduction.

If the judge hears a rider use her voice, it’s a mandatory two-point deduction.

Think about what a schooling ring usually sounds like – there can be a lot of talking going on, directed from the rider to the horse. I wonder if the originators of the rule just wanted to keep the noise down when a test was going on. Or, how would the judge distinguish between an appropriate voice aid and something out of line? I’ve never had a rider actually swear at a horse (or me) in the show ring, but I suspect it could happen, and it could be worth a deduction of a lot more than the required two points.

I think, however, this might be a more significant reason: Too many riders use voice aids when they should be using leg or seat aids. It’s sort of like they are doing a Vulcan mind meld, that if they think it or say it, the horse will understand. They are using their brains and mouths but not their bodies. How often do you hear mindless clucking with no apparent response from the horse? And, how often is that clucking not accompanied by any shift of a leg or seat aid? Perhaps those who originated the rule wanted to guarantee an understanding of aids other than voice aids.

Note that the number of points deducted is at the discretion of the judge. A two-point deduction is required, but the rule reads: “The use of the voice in any way whatsoever or clicking of the tongue once or repeatedly is a serious fault involving the deduction of at least two marks from those that would otherwise have been awarded for the movement where this occurred.” (USEF Rulebook DR117.6) That means the judge could take off more than two points if she feels it is valid. Note, also, that the deduction for a movement with a coefficient is only one point because, when it is multiplied by the coefficient, it then becomes a two-point deduction. It’s possible that you could protest a deduction made for a coefficient movement that turns two points off into four points off.

Note also that “use of voice” is NOT an error. A deduction is made from the specific movement and, if you are a Chatty Kathy, you could get a deduction for every box in the test!

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