Hilary Moore Hebert: Fixing Subjective Judging

This past month, I found myself in a situation that made me appreciate why people have issues with “subjective judging” at shows. Let me step back and tell you that I cannot count how many times I, as an “L” grad, have explained to competitors that judges do not just pick who they like as their method to placing the class. They do not give them the best score because they are “warmbloods, bay geldings, ridden by Olympians, etc.” in some subjective way. Judges work off a method, where all scores and comments come from a larger plan. For example, if a horse is not trotting when he should be trotting, you cannot give that horse a 9 on a movement. The math that goes into how a judge calculates that score can be slightly off from another judge, but should never be off by several points. However, not all judges seem to work off this method and I think that one sour apple has spoiled the impression of the whole bunch for many competitors. I can explain to my student that she did not get an 8 on her trot circle because a horse at that level needs to show consistent contact, tempo, bend, geometry, etc. I can explain to her why she did not deserve a 3 because she was at least in the general area of the circle and trotting. But, it is pretty hard to have that stand up when she comes back to me and says, in fact, the judge gave her a 2 on the trot circle she trotted without any major issues. How do I explain to that student that judging is not subjective when I can’t explain the methodology of how that judge scored her? I don’t bring this up because I think dressage judging is corrupt, but simply because I can see where competitors are coming from. The good news is I think it is an issue that is being addressed in the requirement of continuing education within the judging community and has improved just in the time that I have had my L. I look forward to more people participating in and auditing the L Program so they can understand the methodology behind judging so they are able to recognize the reasons that they are achieving certain scores … and also recognize those few sour apples that are inadvertently spoiling their impression of judges. One thing I do know is that the more educated and involved we can all be as competitors, the better our shows and judging will become!







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