Guest Blog post # 106: "By the Numbers" by Bill Woods

(“. . . how unfair that is!”)


If your personal bubble is sufficiently opaque, if after your test ride you go right back to the barn and feed carrots till the rest of the class is over, the following probably doesn’t apply to you. If you watch other rides and score them in your head comparing them to your own, then you may have once or twice mumbled to yourself, “I didn’t have any mistakes in my test. She made a couple of big ones, but she still beat me!” The implication, of course, is how unfair that is.


My response applies to all levels but especially to the higher ones… doing all the movements is a minimal requirement. At Intermediaire or Grand Prix you can do them all and still get a 58%. That’s because the essence of the scores is not just the counting or the other technical details. It’s the qualities— suppleness, throughness, balance, collection, engagement, expression— which you must be able to demonstrate within each movement.


True, massive and repeated problems indicate flaws in acceptance, attention, and so forth, but even an obvious mistake here or there (particularly when those movements don’t have double coefficients) will be penalized only when they happen and not elsewhere on the sheet. This is more true than ever now that the FEI has eliminated the Collective Marks given at the end of the ride.


There will be a “tipping point” where enough of these problems accumulate to bounce a horse out of the ribbons, but even at the WEG we saw horses in the top group break or mess up a movement and still do fairly well because of all the other good parts.


Conclusion: complaint registered but rejected. Or as Major Lindgren would have said, “Get in line; get a number; fill out the form; pay the fee; wait for a response.” Outcome: same result!

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