New Dressage Judging Ideas to be Tested at Aachen Next Week

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Mariette Withages, who was fired as chairman of the FEI Dressage Committee, having fun creating a "new" dressage competition arena with obsracles of jump standards and plants at Cannes, France, in June. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Mariette Withages, who was fired as chairman of the FEI Dressage Committee, having fun creating a "new" dressage competition arena with obsracles of jump standards and plants at Cannes, France, in June. The first Olympic dressage competition in 1912 included gunpowder barrels rolled toward the horses. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

AACHEN, Germany, Sept. 1–New dressage judging ideas aimed at making the Olympic discipline more understandable and fairer will be tested at Aachen’s dressage stadium by the FEI Dressage Task Force Sept. 7 and 8.

The task force is headed by Aachen organizing chief Frank Kemperman and includes Richard Davison (GBR), riders’ representative; Robert Dover (USA), trainers’ representative; Alain Francqueville (FRA), chefs d’équipe; Katrina Wüst (GER), judges’ representative, and Elizabeth Max-Theurer (AUT), owners’ representative.

The task force has been charged with overhauling the sport, including judging that came under attack at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when judges met with a selected number of national team representatives in violation of the rules over complaints of national bias and spectator confusion over obvious mistakes that did not prevent awarding of medals to the horse and rider combination. FEI President Princess Haya dismissed then Dressage Committee chairman Mariette Withages of Belgium and appointed the task force with representatives of the major stakeholders in the sport.

“How can dressage sport become more comprehensible? How can it become more fair?” the task force asked in a news release about next week’s judging procedures.

The task force, it said, has developed ideas and concepts and consulted outside sports and experts.

“They watched judging methods for figure skating and had discussions with experts of the International Gymnastics Federation,” it said.

The task force’s concepts will be tested over two days in the Deutsche Bank Stadium on the CHIO show grounds, considered the world’s premier facility.

After testing top international judges will assess the impact of the newly developed methods and ideas on the performances of dressage riders’ such as European Championships team gold medalist Imke Schellekens-Bartels and Jana Kun of Aachen.

The demonstrations are open to the public, the entry for spectators is free on both days.

Media representatives are also invited to a discussion on the testing on the Tuesday evening.

Frank Kemperman told dressage-news.com at the European Championships in Windsor, England that the task force will weigh all aspects of the testing, including how each procedure will impact scores, before making a final recommendation.

Under the current procedures, top dressage competitions are judged by a panel of five, three sitting at one of the competition arena and one on each long side of the 60 by 20-meter arena.