We had a wonderful opportunity here in Florida last month to attend the USEF Judges’ Clinic.  Every USEF Judge is required to attend a Clinic at least once every 3 years.  Over 130 judges were in attendance.  The Clinic is a platform for judges to get together to discuss and learn of not only rule changes and updates, but mostly to focus on judging methodology.  Katrina Wuest (FEI 5* from Germany) and our own Gary Rockwell (FEI 5* and USEF ‘S’) presented a wonderful and highly educational weekend for all of us!

The first day was done in classroom format at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center in West Palm Beach.  Lisa Gorretta (‘R’ Technical Delegate and FEI Steward) began the morning with the rule changes and updates.  Often somewhat of a ‘dry’ subject matter, Lisa managed to keep everyone engaged with her witty presentation!  From changes on rulings for allowed bits and nosebands, to the number and size of logos allowed on saddle pads during competition.

Katrina and Gary then shifted our attention to judging methodology with an incredible collection of video clips put together by Katrina.  It was done in a logical progression through the levels (and accordingly following the Training Scale) beginning with young horses at Verden to the top FEI horses at Aachen.  The advantage of training judges with these clips is that a movement can be viewed and discussed, then the movement can be replayed several times as necessary for everyone to take in the nuances of why it should receive a certain score.  Nearly every movement from Training Level through Grand Prix was addressed as well as in depth discussion of the collective marks (Gaits, Impulsion, Submission, Rider).

Additionally, Katrina covered Freestyles with great insight toward assessing appropriate artistic marks which include Rhythm (energy and elasticity), Harmony, Choreography, Degree of Difficulty and Music (interpretation).   

For the second day of the Clinic, we were presented with live demo horses at the Global Dressage facility in Wellington.  Again, a logical progression though the levels with discussion revolving around demo horses followed by a complete test at that level by another horse and rider.  Judging live horses raised some interesting discussion as we were presented with many different breeds and typical issues that often arise in our everyday judging.  

Riders should know that judges are required to take part in regular training and education to maintain their licenses.  Judges are committed to this continuing education.  Just as riders strive for perfection in riding, judges also work hard at staying up to date with current rule changes and improving their judging skills.  

See you soon on the centerline!