Overwhelming Majority of Dressage Nations Oppose “HiLo” Scoring Proposal

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Frank Kemperman, International Equerstrian Federation Dressage Committee chairman (pointing finger) with some dressage judges. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Oct. 24, 2017

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

An overwhelming majority of dressage nations have come out against a controversial proposal by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to change judging in 2018 by dropping high and low scores for each movement. Only two nations supported the proposal and a handful of others suggested testing and evaluating first.

Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, France, Canada and the United were among countries plus groups representing Central Europe, officials and event organizers telegraphed their opposition ahead of the FEI’s ultimate decision-making body, the General Assembly, at its annual meeting Nov. 18-21.

Great Britain’s position was to wait to consider all proposed changes if the entire judging system is to be overhauled.

The Netherlands, long a proponent of the idea, and Italy were the only two countries to come out in support, as well as the international dressage riders and trainers clubs.

Some of the world’s top riders, including world No. 1 Isabell Werth of Germany have spoken out against the so-called HiLo.

One of the most pointed comments of those submitted to the FEI 30 days before the general assembly came from the United States: “US Equestrian obtained feedback on this proposal from our various stakeholders including many of our top athletes.

“The proposal is not supported as it is not addressing the issue but seeking to cover it up.”

The proposal was drawn up by an FEI-mandated Dressage Judging Working Group and supported by the FEI’s Dressage Committee.

According to the group’s report, 1,320 Grand Prix level tests with five or more judges in 2017 were analyzed. The average score change per rider increased by only 0.09 per cent, with 224 scores dropping a little and 1,096 scores up a little.

“For the majority of cases, scores will change very little, although on average there will be a small increase in final scores,” according to the FEI summary. “No single judge can ever determine the final ranking, the consensus result will be the determining factor. Nationalistic or other biases, deliberate or not, will always be removed from the final score; it is impossible for a single judge to push a rider up or down compared to their colleague’s appreciation.”

The proposed changes have been introduced as an experiment in the past but then withdrawn.

Comments on the FEI proposal showed that countries and entities opposed to introduction of HiLo in 2018 or want it tested first are:

International Dressage Officials Club
Association of International Dressage Event Organizers
Argentina
Australia
Belgium
Brazil
Canada
Central European Dressage Working Group
Chile
Denmark
Estonia
France
Germany
Great Britain
Great Britain Dressage Judges
India
Japan
Luxembourg
Malaysia
New Zealand
Norway
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
USA

Those favoring implementation:

International Dressage Riders Club
International Dressage Trainers Club
Netherlands
Italy