In the Firing Line: The Dressage System of Judging

Tue, 11/09/2010 - 09:22

At the Global Dressage Forum, the IDRC and IDTC jointly prepared a series of presentations that indicated that our system of judging needs to be replaced. 

It showed that the judges themselves are not the problem.  Basically, our message was “the judges are doing the best job a human can do, it is our system of judging that needs to change”.

The presentation concluded with a wish list divided into a short term and long term action plans:

Long term actions:

  • Fundamental change to our system of judging
  • Appoint working group to implement a Code of Points with representatives appointed by the stakeholder Clubs
  • Anonymous judging (not in the short term)

Short term actions:

  • Half-points
  • Accountability of judges
    • Objective evaluation
    • Promotion (not limited to a number but based on capability), demotion and retraining
    • Increase responsibility of Judges Supervisory Panel
  • Selection of judges for shows to be done by the FEI
    • Removes pressure from show organisers on judges
    • Allows all judges to get international experience
  • Open judging
    • Publish marks by movement for each judge for all CDIs 3* and above
    • Marks by movement for each judges to be displayed at all competitions
  • Code of Deductions for errors


Our argument on judging was based on four points:

  • other artistic sports have the same problems that we have faced in dressage with human biases.  Inga Wolfram, sports psychologist, outlined these biases and showed that some of these sports have developed a Code of Points which have made the judging more objective.  These have separated the tasks of judges into manageable pieces.
  • riders, trainers and judges look for the same qualities.  Inga also presented an eye-tracker that:
    • showed that riders, judges and trainers look at the same things
    • showed that none of us is able to process all the information that the Dressage Handbook says we have to
  • judges are close to the theoretical limit of their ability with our current system - David Stickland’s data has demonstrated this point very clearly.  Further education will not improve the situation massively but it still important.  His conclusion is that the system needs to change if we want to have greater accuracy
  • The Dressage Handbook is too complicated to be a Code of Points in any form.  I did a presentation showing the complexity of the Dressage Handbook and demonstrated that it is not possible to use this to work out a final mark with objectivity.  It is a super learning tool but is limited by the system it based upon.

You can download the presentations here:

Please do not hesitate to contact me or any IDRC Board Member with any questions you may have. Visit

-- IDRC Press Release

Related Links
Natural Bias, the Hidden Controversy in Judging Sports
The Judging System in the Firing Line at the 2010 Global Dressage Forum