Judged or Prejudged?

(“Arabs used to take the brunt of it before Friesians.”)

OK, so I look at Facebook too much. I know everything there is to know about Truthers, Flat Earthers, Chemtrailers, and deniers of most everything that  we would think of as normal. And of course I read about riders’ reactions to their being judged. They get even more wound up than usual when the Regionals roll around.

Names are unimportant, but I was drawn to a post by one competitor who was very unhappy with how one judge on the panel (of two) had scored her. Apparently Judge A had placed her sixth out of 40 but Judge B had placed her 29th. She accused the second judge of being prejudiced against her horse’s breed–a Friesian.

I am not discounting this as a possibility, but that was the case more so in the past when judges’ training was more simplistic and less codified. Arabs used to take the brunt of it before Friesians gained popularity.

Pardon me from falling into stereotypes or from choosing sides, but this breed does provide a certain conundrum for judges to deal with. Characteristically (but not always) they tend to be animated and cadenced especially in the trot. Often (but not always) their presence and rhythm are more evident than their ability to cover ground. Often (but not always) they are ridden with relatively high and short necks. And often (but not always) while their canters are well forward, they are not as balanced and in self carriage as one might wish.

These qualities may be differentially weighted from one judge to another. Sabine Schut-Kery, a prominent and successful trainer of Friesians, has written of the importance of doing real dressage with them, not just trick, crowd pleasing dressage. Having not witnessed the ride in question, I am making no judgment here. However, looking beyond the feathers and the flowing mane, the judge must visualize what the horse is doing anatomically. He must be out over the top line, ridden from back to front, using his back, carrying himself, and tracking up (and going beyond his prints in lengthenings and mediums).

If the judge scores all Friesians low, you might accuse him of a breed prejudice. If he scores yours (or one of any other particular breed that way), it might–just might–be that he is the correct one!