The saying goes, if something is too good, then it probably is. After hearing the phrase ‘something for nothing’ at the National Dressage Championships, I started to wonder how far can super genetics get you in the sport of dressage? Dressage is French for training, had this judge implied genetically engineered horses accelerate the training process known today as dressage? Do our ‘super horses’ achieve higher marks, regardless of training? Or is it a case of our judges getting horsenotised? Either way, should horses with better marks in the body of the test get beaten by the collectives?
One suggestion discussed at the Nationals is to change the judging system. How would horses with more naturally uphill and forward gaits perform in a system marked on training? Champion of the new system, International dressage rider Wayne Channon, has for years been communicating the importance of changing the current system. He believes we need to change so dressage is simple for all judges to get right, most of the time. Marks need to be transparent, and as dressage is all about training, understanding why you got a mark means your more likely to develop and improve. Audience’s should be able to follow the scoring system, alongside greater clarity for riders to understand how marks are gained or lost. Wayne and colleagues have come up with a code of points system and removing the collectives.
Should the collectives stay? One argument by the judges at the Nationals was that the symptoms of your training show up in the body of the test but the cause of your horses way of going is in the collectives. Would removing the collectives but keep the judges comments be better?
One thing for sure is that the sport evolved from training light, responsive and supple horses of different breeds and varied gaits. Is it time to look back to the future of dressage? How sustainable is the sport without the focus being on safe, effective and ethical training, of ALL breeds and gait ability?