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Janet Foy puts the “L” in “JudgeLets”

“Judgelets” is Janet’s term for the participants in the USDF “L” program. Developed by the USDF Judges’ Committee, this educational training program teaches learner judges to evaluate the correct training of dressage horses. The program is divided into two parts (Part 1 and Part 2) and each part is made up of three sessions. NEDA, which stands for New England Dressage Association, has just concluded Part 1 and is moving on to Part 2 with 10 eligible candidates.

I highly encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in dressage to attend as an auditor – you will be astonished at how much you will learn and what judges are REALLY looking for in dressage tests. Personally, I graduated with distinction from the program in 2012 and am now auditing as well as scribing for a fellow SmartPaker. Within Part 1,

Session A is an introduction to judging and biomechanics – this was held October 15 & 16, 2016
Session B addresses judging criteria for gaits & paces, movements & figures – November 19 & 20, 2016
Session C covers collective marks, equitation, rider biomechanics and basics – April 8 & 9, 2017

The instructor for Session C was Janet Foy, a US Equestrian “S” judge in dressage and “R” judge in dressage sporthorse breeding, and who was just promoted to a 5* FEI dressage judge (the highest international ranking for a dressage judge and one of only four in the United States). With her characteristic wit and forthrightness, Janet led lively discussions on:

• Components of the Collective Marks using the Basics
• Methodology for assessing the Collective Marks
• Gaits & Paces
• Impulsion
• Submission
• Rider’s Seat and Position, Rider Biomechanics
• Freestyle

Saturday was spent indoors, viewing a PowerPoint presentation interspersed with plenty of video, homework from the last session, and questions from the candidates moving on to Part 2, where they will be evaluated by a written test, an oral exam, and their ability to judge live tests at a show. On Sunday, the group went to a local facility, Apple Knoll Farm, to watch, score, and discuss demo riders performing individual movements as well as full tests at Training, First, and Second Levels.

I took pages and pages of notes during these two days – some to advance my own riding but many to support my own judging career. Here are some of the highlights:

1. “The more impulsion you have, the more submission you need”
(explaining why big, powerful gaits may score well in the Impulsion box but suffer in the Submission box)

2. “What do you mean? I’ve never heard of that movement!”
(what a horse might be thinking when asked to perform a movement in a test and struggles, resists, or braces). Janet drilled down even further with this explanation:
“Impulsion or Engagement is CAN he do it; Submission is WILL he do it?”

3. “Judges are not the dressage police – we’re also not the fashion police. Your job is to judge performance.”

4. “I would if I could judgie-poo.”
(how to score the Collectives when clearly the rider was unable to influence the horse that day)

5. We received advice on how to score and comment on horses that travelled slowly or that “left a slime trail on the ground”

6. Upon discovering that not everyone in the group scored a free walk high:
“if you didn’t give an 8 for that, have another cup of coffee. Or chocolate. Chocolate is good.”

7. “Score and move on, let the scores take care of themselves”
(don’t try to manipulate the outcome)”

8. “Freestyle ain’t so free anymore.”
(referring to a tightening up of forbidden movements at each level and their penalities)

9. She also offered general advice for the role of the judge:
“You need to put them in the right place in the class without making them bleed”

10. Here are some great Further Remarks she shared for our use:
a. “Rider needs to be able to influence horse’s balance more.”
b. “Lovely position but horse had his way with you today.”
c. Elegant pair, unfortunate miscommunication this test.”

I was able to put many of these maxims to immediate good use when I judged a dressage schooling show just two weeks after this refresher. It was an 11-hour day, but it went by quickly as I thought back to Janet’s words of wisdom at various times throughout the competition. Hopefully I placed each class correctly and sent riders home with kind, helpful comments to work on in their daily training.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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