Observations from attending the Judges Clinic with Kim Peterson, By Belinda Rodriguez
I attended the very informative weekend in May with Kim Peterson at the Judges clinic held at the Waiuku Pony Club grounds. The New Zealand national organisation is becoming more aligned with the WEDU (Working Equitation Down Under) group, of which Kim Peterson is part of, in order to facilitate cross nation events, and to implement familiar rules for both countries. WEDU has their set of rules that have been adapted to suit their training principles and conditions in Australia. Currently a few clubs in NZ are now operating with these rules in their competitions. As soon as the WENZ (Working Equitation NZ) committee has been formed, it will be a task to develop a strategy for the New Zealand Working Equitation rules.
This was my first time judging in an equestrian discipline, and it was eye opening to see how difficult the job can be. The judges are taught to congratulate the rider for their positive aspects and also to highlight the areas falling short. A judge pulls out a 10 at each score opportunity, and then deducts the marks for errors and training gaps during the execution. Certain types of offenses are automatically converted to a maximum score usually a 5 or below, such as the horse hitting an object or break of gait/execution at the wrong gait.
The course map will indicate direction of travel through the flags – these do not need to be red-on-the-right direction. Exit of the course is usually done through the flags in the opposite direction (this will be indicated on the course map).
Riders must not touch the setup of the course prior to starting but it is their responsibility to check that everything is in place. Ask a steward or the judge to have something corrected. Left handed riders need to tell the show organisers at the time of entering, and also mention it to the judge on your way into the Ease of Handling.
Competitors and lead line handlers are the only people allowed to question the judge during the course walk (not trainers etc.). The judge will give you the technical information on the course execution and also what they are looking for in scoring, but not riding tips. It is important to make sure there is no confusion between your plan for executing the course and the judges expectations. Use your time wisely with the judge to ask questions, especially about any mandatory requirements for direction of obstacle entry and other course directives (which will be indicated on the course map), as well as what is expected at each obstacle for the speed round.
Remember that in the style phase, the best lines to set up your transitions and entry to the obstacles will be scored well, rather than the shortest line to the obstacle. You can be creative in your lines as no obstacles are live under the WEDU rules (meaning that you can ride through/past the transition markers and gaps between multi-obstacle parts of the course).
Point deductions will be made for failing to salute the judge at the beginning and ending of the Ease of Handling course. You do not need to come close to the judge to salute. When you hear the bell to start, face the judge and salute from your location on the course. There are 60 seconds to start through the flags from the time of the bell. At the end after passing through the flags, turn and face the judge to salute from the most convenient place to stop.
Disqualification in a round will be for certain types of issues. This means you can still compete in the next phase and be eligible for overall placings, but your score will not be regarded in the current phase.
Elimination is for more serious offenses and will make you ineligible for further phases and any placings.
In the dressage phase up to certain levels you can have a caller without any points deductions. Check with the show organisers.
From my observations at the judges clinic geometry and accuracy of transitions is important, but is not as highly weighted for beginner dressage elsewhere. The way of going of the horse is very important, and bracing/hollowness of the body or overbending of the neck is marked down – so training the horizontal balance of the horse is very important. Where there is a neck stretch/free rein, you will get a good mark if your horse can stretch out, and maintain it through the whole exercise.
Bend, transitions and gait were also a focus in the lovely test riders that we had. For the overall marks, rhythm and tempo of gait is rewarded. Impulsion is not quickness, but actually the freeness of the movement. A restricted and blocked horse will not have good impulsion. Submission focuses on the goodwill between the rider and horse. Your mark for Rider, Paces, Impulsion, and Submission will not exceed any of the marks given in the test.
I haven’t covered EVERYTHING that we talked about in the clinic, so there is much more still to store up there in our heads, but those are my learning picks from the weekend.