Dressage Judges’ Retirement Age May Go To 72 from 70 Years of Age as Sport Undergoes Dramatic Makeover

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The 2012 Olympic Games ground jury and officials. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The 2012 Olympic Games ground jury and officials. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Nov. 18, 2015


The retirement age of dressage judges may go to 72 from the current limit of 70 years at the same time the sport has undergone a dramatic makeover in the past five years to keep younger riders in the sport and recognize the role of amateurs.

A move by Austria to raise the retirement age of judges in all categories to 72 but continue to allow extensions “in special circumstances” was proposed at the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) General Assembly last week on the grounds it has not changed for many years although life expectancy and retirement ages in most countries has increased.

“In the 1970s, we had approximately eight years of retirement and nowadays it is up to 22 years,” according to the proposal.

Although it was deferred to the FEI Sports Forum next April, the changed face of dressage may impact the retirement consideration as well as other aspects of judging to keep pace with demands and maintain development aimed at assuring dressage and other horse sports stay in the Olympic Games beyond Tokyo in 2020.

The number of FEI approved judges stands at a total of about 165–18 at 2*, 40 at 3*, 83 at 4* and 32 at the top 5* level, according to a derssage-news.com calculation of the list of FEI officials.

Judges come from more than 40 nations to be on ground juries that at CDI Grand Prix events are typically made up of a minimum of three foreign judges.

The United States has the greatest number of judges with 16, including four 5*s, followed by Germany with 13 including five 5*s, France with 12 (three 5*s), Netherlands 11 (five 5*s), Australia, Denmark and Great Britain each with eight, Russia and Sweden with six and Canada Belgium, South Africa and Spain have five each.

Some countries where no CDIs are scheduled for 2016 such as Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Hong Kong, India, Korea, Luxembourg, Peru, Philippines, Thailand and United Arab Emirates have judges, part of the campaign to expand the base outside traditional dressage nations.

The sweeping makeover of dressage came after the 2008 Olympic Games where serious missteps in judging and organization by officials led to the then judge-dominated FEI Dressage Committee being disbanded. A task force was created to re-format the sport with a new Dressage Committee representing different stakeholder groups such as riders, trainers, organizers and judges.

Beginning in 2011, major championships such as the Olympics, World and European Championships and the World Cup Final had seven judges spread around the competition arena instead of five previously.

To answer demands for instant reviews, a three-member Judges Supervisory Panel (JSP) watches championship rides and views video replays of movements with the right to make some changes to the scores. The right of the JSP to make changes has been expanded over the past couple of years, and the media is provided some information about the changes after the event.

However, the biggest changes may have come with the changed makeup of shows.

In 2010, there were about 136 CDI competitions in 30 countries on the FEI calendar. Most of the events ranged from CDI1* to CDI5* Grand Prix, with a number of junior, young rider and young horse divisions.

The single FEI list ranked 610 combinations in the world.

By 2016, the number of shows had risen more than 18 per cent to 161, including increases in CDI5* and CDI4* competitions with bigger prize money.

The Under-25 division will explode to 59 competition in 14 countries in 2016 from a total of just nine in Germany, France, Netherlands and Italy in 2010. The United States leads the way with 19 competitions with 10 in Spain and seven in France in 2016.

The CDI amateur division that did not exist until this year when it was inaugurated at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida moves into 2016 with 11 competitions in the U.S. and nine in Spain among at least six nations with a total of about 28.

An example is the Nations Cup event in Wellington that just two years ago encompassed six different divisions but in 2016 is scheduling nine divisions from the main team competition to ponies.

Rankings have also grown enormously, from 765 on the main world list to 131 on newly created Under-25 count, 374 young riders, 438 juniors, 241 pony riders and 74 in the children’s division.