15th June 2004 - The Decline of Grand Prix
Each morning, after I get and am brushing my teeth, I turn on my PC and watch the annoying Windows XP screen flash like a stroboscope waking me up for another electronic day. By the time I've finished my bathroom routine, my PC is ready for labor day. I check my mail first thing and then visit my book marked websites. One of them is the UBB message board. Usually I flip through it rather quickly, but a couple of days ago I was intrigued by a special post of "herd member" Mike Matson. Matson wrote the following in a thread named "The Decline of Grand Prix":
"In the June issue of USDF Connection magazine, there is an excellent article by Gerhard Politz entitled "On the Road to Grand Prix". In it he discusses how directives and judging affect the sport of dressage. Most interesting was the redefined FEI directive for Grand Prix, effective in 2003.
"The Grand Prix is a competition of artistic equitation . . ."
"The Grand Prix is a competition of the highest level . . ."
Why did the FEI make such a change? To me it is certainly a lowering of the standard to go from a competition of "artistic equitation" to one of "the highest level". Gerhard points out in the article that in reviewing videos of the 2002 WEG and the 2003 World Cup, he is already seeing a lowering of standard at Grand Prix. The following is his quote:
"Reviewing videos of these events, it is disheartening to see how unaccomplished some of the supposedly top riders in the sport influence and aid their horses. It is surprising how unflappably some of these horses perform in spite of this. How insensitive to the point of stoic have they become to accept such crude aids! It is yet more surprising - and to me incomprehensible - that some of these combinations placed quite highly in the class. By not only allowing such erosion of performance but also being directly responsible for it, what signals are dressage judges setting for the future of our sport?"
I commend USDF Connection for publishing Gerhard's article and to Gerhard for bringing forward for discussion this important issue. As a lower level rider, I want to be inspired by Grand Prix combinations (particularly in the freestyle) who demonstrate "artistic equitation". Sadly, I often find myself watching a "competition of the highest level" and walking away disappointed."
I agree with Mike and the Politz' quote completely. In this Olympic year, it is time for judges to redecide what kind of dressage they are going to support, encourage and score in the future. Are they going to go for artificiality, which lately seems to dominate the show ring (i.e. electric, stressed out horses, which are impressive to the eye but perform the FEI movements incorrectly, or riders with incorrect seats). Or will the judges be conservative and stick to the foundations of dressage, the classical method. The upcoming CDIO Aachen July 13-18, 2004, will be a good parameter for the Olympics. I'll be there on guard.
Related Link: UBB Thread: The decline of Grand Prix