Two Cents from “The Two Bills”

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UNDERSTANDING THE COLLECTIVE MARKS

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Last month we wrote about the scoring of the movements within a test with several examples from different levels.  This month we want to talk about the COLLECTIVE MARKS found at the bottom of your score sheet.  The collectives should reflect what happened in the body of the test.. ie: the average of the marks for the movements themselves, and the average of the collective marks should be similar.  Just as the directives for the individual movements on the score sheet provide a wealth of information, the detailed description in each of the collective boxes can also help us to better understand what the judges are looking for.  Here we will be addressing the collectives for the USEF tests (Training Level through Fourth Level).
The first of the collective marks is for the GAITS. Through correct training, the freedom and regularity of the gaits should be preserved.  The gait score is only one number, but it is arrived at by assessing all 3 gaits combined.  Beginning with the WALK, we of course are looking for a clear 4 beat rhythm.  It should show looseness through the back and freedom of shoulders to cover ground.  For higher marks, the hind legs must show enough over track in the free walk or the extended walk.  When the rhythm falters, or begins to take on a lateral tendency, the score for the walk comes down quickly.  The TROT should show free, active and regular steps (clear 2 beat rhythm).  A higher degree of elasticity and cadence as well as impulsion will enhance the impression of the trot for a higher mark.  When the trot becomes earthbound or shows signs of irregularity the score will be impacted in a negative way.   The CANTER, must maintain a clear 3 beat rhythm with light, cadenced strides for the highest marks.  If the canter becomes ‘flat’, lacking suspension, and/or takes on a 4 beat (lateral) rhythm, the canter score will suffer.  With 3 correct gaits showing enough quality as described above, the score should be 7 or above.  If even one of the gaits doesn’t meet the criteria, the overall gait score will come down by at least a half point or more.
The next box is IMPULSION.  It should be understood that speed in itself has little to do with impulsion.  Impulsion is an eager and energetic push from the hind legs through a soft swinging back and guided by elastic contact with the riders hand.  Engagement is an important component of IMPULSION.  Engagement is about the ability to bend the joints of the hind legs for more weight carrying and then to be able to push forward.  In coming up with a score for IMPULSION, a judge must take into consideration the willingness of the horse to stay active behind whether it is in a working, collected, medium or extended gait.  We are also looking for the appropriate level of engagement in all transitions as well.  It can happen that a certain horse has the power and will to go, but yet struggles in balancing fluidly in transitions, which could affect the score.
Following is SUBMISSION which ties in with some aspects of impulsion as well as rider scores.  For this year’s (2015) new tests, the description for SUBMISSION has received a face-lift.  It now begins with; willing cooperation and harmony.  Additionally, acceptance of bit and aids also covers a very broad spectrum, including but not limited to lateral suppleness (bending), and longitudinal suppleness (willingness to reach toward the bit ).  Regarding attention and confidence  it can happen that a horse is distracted and spooks in one movement, but is quite obedient for the remainder of the test.  In this case the score for that movement would be effected but might not necessarily influence the SUBMISSION score negatively.  On the other hand, if it happens repeatedly, the submission score will certainly suffer.  In thinking about ease of movements a horse can show movements with ease to one side and then with difficulty to the other side.  This will also influence the score for submission.   A horse that does not have high quality gaits, could still be rewarded under SUBMISSION for correct training which produces an accurate fluid performance with precise transitions.

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Another change in the collectives for 2015 comes under the RIDER scores.  There are now just 2 boxes instead of 3.  HARMONY has now been placed within the SUBMISSION box.   We start with RIDER POSITION AND SEAT which includes:  Alignment, posture, stability, weight placement, following mechanics of the gait.  As an example: A rider could have correct alignment but their weight aids are placed to the outside of the bend in lateral movements or sits to the outside on circle lines. This will impact RIDER POSITION  score.
The next box is RIDER’S CORRECT AND EFFECTIVE USE OF AIDS, which includes clarity, subtlety, independence, accuracy of test.   The score above (RIDER POSITION) can be high for a rider who meets that criteria.  However, if they have difficulty guiding the horse through the test with ease, the score for EFFECTIVE USE OF AIDS will be lower.  Examples could be having difficulty in transitions, late behind in flying changes, maintaining correct contact and bend just to name a few.   A correct sitting rider who also produces a fluid performance with balance and harmony, will be rewarded here.  We can easily see here why the EFFECTIVE USE OF AIDS score and the SUBMISSION score should be closely related.
It should be noted that the coefficient mark for GAITS is only one, whereas IMPULSION and SUBMISSION each are times two.  Each of the RIDER boxes has a coefficient of one.  Correct work according to the scale of training should be rewarded. A horse with high quality gaits is appreciated but the coefficients weigh more heavily on correctness of training and influence of the rider.

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See you soon on the centerline!

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