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Big changes afoot in dressage

October 30, 2009

Steffen Peters during a session at the Global Dressage Forum in The Netherlands earlier this week.

Major changes to the discpline of dressage will take place in the next few months, FEI dressage director Trond Asmyr has indicated.

"It is very interesting to be the dressage director of the FEI nowadays, as more things are going to change now than in the past 20 years," Asmyr said during the ninth Global Dressage Forum in Hooge Mierde in The Netherlands earlier this week. He was referring to proposals by the FEI Dressage Task Force, which were published earlier this month and include a raft of recommendations to take the sport of dressage into the future.

During two days of lectures and demonstrations at the forum, on October 26-27, many of the changes were highlighted by officials, trainers and scientists.

Among the proposals are an increased focus on the welfare of the horse, and the education and selection of judges and changes to the marking system.

There are proposals for a new Olympic format with the Nations Cup no longer to be decided in the Grand Prix and the reserve riders to be permitted to start as individual entries. Also, the kür to music will even be more prominent in dressage, the FEI representatives predicted.

Olympic judge Katrina Wüst gave her proposals for a new way of judging the kür to music in a more objective way by using a set point system for the degree of difficulty.

She said on an artistic level, the choreography and music can be quantified by establishing a catalogue of movements which can earn bonus points depending on their difficulty. A rider would have to indicate the degree of difficulty of his freestyle beforehand and the judges will score this using the catalogue. "Riders will know what they can do to get good points," Wüst said.

"O" dressage judge Katrina Wüst

Master farrier Rob Renirie

Veterinarian Dr Rachel Murray

A demonstration took place by Physical sports specialist Dr Eckart Meyners and Olympic gold medal winner Heike Kemmer from Germany, who demonstrated specific physical training for the rider and explained that this can be an essential cornerstone for success.

On Monday evening World Cup champion Steffen Peters trained several riders and rode horses who were unknown to him, demonstrating the combination of classical background and modern sports principles. The next day, he trained younger riders and he even mounted an inexperienced three-year-old. He was applauded by the audience of more than 300 dressage experts from more than 20 countries and became the "star of the show".

Other interesting items were the lectures on doping by Dr Frits Sluyter, and on the prevention of injuries by Dr Rachel Murray, from Newmarket. Dr Murray commented on the latest developments in veterinary technology, including the considerable advances in the use of MRI and advanced diagnostic imaging. She said resistance or slight loss of performance can be due to the rider, the training, physical limitations of the horse or pain. To give a dressage horse the best chance of performing well, early diagnosis of injury is essential to avoid damage becoming irreversible, either mentally or physically.

Master farrier Rob Renirie, who is one of the most experienced Master farriers in the dressage world, spoke on the specialised treatment of the hoof. Rob Renirie has been involved in many Olympic Games as the official team farrier of the Netherlands, and is the home farrier of several top riders in different disciplines. Renirie is also involved in education and research, and the emphasis in specialised hoof treatment for the dressage horse.

The statistical evaluation of five years of international judging was presented by top scientist professor David Stickland. This massive work, the analysis of all individual judges scores at many hundreds of events, gave an inside view of the judging process. Overall, the five judges at international events have an average deviation from the total score of 1.6%.

"This can be better," Stickland said, "I have calculated that an average deviation of 1% is possible, and as a matter of fact this score was almost reached during the recent European Championships in Windsor."

Stickland concluded that the judges are quite okay, but the system of judging is not. "There is not enough evaluation, which is necessary for the educational process and a supervising panel must be introduced, as is the case in many other sports."

On Tuesday afternoon the Global Forum came to an end with a clinic by German top trainer Ton de Ridder on the preparation for dressage tests. He presented some very talented riders and horses, and showed the details which are important during the warm-up and can make the difference in a test.



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