London 2012 Olympic Eventing Dressage Review | An Eventful Life

London 2012 Olympic Eventing Dressage Review

Denmark’s Anne-Mette Binder, GBR’s Nick Burton and Australia’s Gillian Rolton did a good job at London. I think most of us would agree that they did a good job and that the right horses were at the head, middle and bottom of the field according to the tests they performed not who they were!

Obviously the horses and riders are judged on many factors but overall it is the picture presented to the judges that is of greatest importance - the harmony of horse and rider, the quality of the horses balance and frame and the development of the paces. Of course, accuracy is important but the quality of the work takes precedence according to the directives printed next to each movement on the test sheet itself.

For the sake of this article and, as a bit of a novelty, I thought one could analyse the performance of the Judges in meeting the following criteria:

  1. How much they were influenced by the 'names'
  2. How consistent they were in scores between each other in each movement
  3. The amount of difference in overall % from each judge for each combination
  4. How reflective the collective marks are of those given in test
  5. Early drawn horses - did they get a rough deal?


1.Obviously no judge would be happy to be accused of marking names up but they are human & after all the names are the professionals who don't give judges much reason to mark them down!

I thought that overall they did pretty well on this front and it was refreshing to see some new names at the top of the leader board! Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa on Nonnday de Conde and Italy’s Stefan Brecciaroli on Apollo WD Wendi Kurt Hoev performed harmonious test allowing the horses to really show their paces and the suppleness of their bodies.

There also wasn’t the runaway effect as there is with the top tests where the high marks can get thrown at the top competitors towards the end of their tests i.e. Luhmuhlen 4* 2012 where deserved dressage leader received a 9 for a rein back that wasn’t straight and which she admitted during an FEI TV interview after her test wasn’t her best movement! 


2. Again, in an overall context there was little discrepancy between judges’ marks for individual movements. One must also remember that on some movements, judges do have a different view. However, sometimes it is their philosophy that varies - Centre Judge gave one horse (sorry, can’t remember who now!) a 5 for its first (balanced transition into and square) halt when it did stick its head in the air in the halt and rider didn’t attempt to correct it - perhaps knowing that it wasn’t worth the potential consequences! Gill Rolton at on the top right hand side of the arena marked it more for the good balance into a square halt for a 7. The next horse came in and was equally well balanced & presumably dead straight into a square halt to receive a 10 from Anne-Mette Binder on the centre line and an 8 from Gill so it was deemed 5 marks better by Anne but only 1 mark better by Gill! Mark Todd on Campino received a 6,9,6 for his first halt which was out behind with one leg by quite a way. It is more understandable that the centre line judge didn’t see this with a very different view than Nick Burton at E. 

The other major discrepancy in an individual mark was the 4,7,8 that Michael Jung received for his medium walk when Sam did jog for several steps before his transition into canter!


3. Only 9 out of 74 horses received marks that had reasonably significant discrepancies i.e. 3% or greater between the top & middle or middle & bottom marks. USA’s Boyd Martin on Otis Barbotiere - 70.37, 64.81, 63.33, France’s Denis Mesples on - 61.11, 60, 55.93, Canada’s Michelle Mueller on Amistad - 64.81, 60.37, 60.74 were in the first group judged so we can allow more leeway for judges to get a bit more in sync! They were absolutely spot on though with NZ’s Jonathan Paget on Clifton Promise - 70.74, 70.74, 70.37 in the penultimate session of Day 1 but not so with Ecudor’s Ronald Zabala-Goetschel on Master Rose - 65.93, 60.7, 63.7. Day 2 opened with a significant inconsistency in Japan’s Atsushi Negishi on Pretty Darling - 68.52, 67.78, 62.96 before less significant differences for Sweden’s Sara Algotsson Osholt on Wega - 77.04, 73.73, 70.74 and NZ’s Caroline Powell on Lenamore - 64.07, 68.15, 63.35 in that initial session. Japan’s Kenki Sato on Chippieh - 74.44, 70.74, 70.74 and GBR’s William Fox-Pitt on Lionheart - 71.11, 72.59, 68.15 were the only others on Day 2 that had reasonable differences in the scores awarded by the 3 judges.     


4. The consistency of marks given in the collective marks are ideally reflect the marks given throughout the test and while one could argue that a rider may ride extremely well during a difficult test and should therefore get higher marks than those in the individual movements (which are an overall mark for many different aspects of the movement i.e. quality of paces displayed, impulsion, submission and rider effectiveness as well as straightness and accuracy of the movement), it is usually the case that they have produced that horse with their training over time and essentially the test is a reflection of the horse’s training. Of course, there are exceptional circumstances such as adverse weather or unexpected noise. I was surprised therefore in Michael Jung’s test - one which was below his high standards with significant mistakes i.e. breaks of pace in both the medium trot (penalized fairly with a 4,5,5) and medium walk - when he received a 9,9,8 for his rider effectiveness collective mark having received only one 9 in the test for his final halt.


5. I did think that 1st rider out USA’s Boyd Martin on Otis Barbotiere was quite harshly marked for a test where he certainly ‘went for it.’ It was unfortunate that the digital scoreboard wasn’t playing for his test so we couldn’t see marks come up with each movement. GBR’s Emily Llewellyn had done a nice job on Pardon Me in the test ride for a 45 so I was expecting Boyd’s more flamboyant ride albeit with some minor errors would score similarly. I also thought that GBR’s Nicola Wilson was harshly marked on Opposition Buzz that produced a smooth error free test that was quite expressive and stayed in a nice shape even though he isn’t the most attractive horse and the Jumping phases are his strength. I had expected that he would score in the late 40s as opposed to his 51.7. In contrast, Chris Burton as 2nd rider out, did get all the marks he deserved for his skilful ride on a tense HP Leilani.


I hope this provides some interesting reading from the exciting two days of Dressage at Greenwich! The really interesting days are to come though where the damp, possibly slippery ground and the demanding terrain of the Cross Country will no doubt take its toll both directly in time faults (probably more so than jumping faults) and indirectly on the third day where I’m sure some tired horses will struggle with remaining careful and scopy over the coloured poles where the pressure is sure to be on!


Thanks to Wendy Schaeffer for providing this report. You can find out more about Wendy at