Feb 21, 2018

Spotlight on the New YEH Scoring and Judging Criteria on Day Three of the 2018 Educational Symposium

By Jessica Duffy - USEA Staff
Leslie Law showing off the gallop in front of the assembled crowd at the 2018 YEH Symposium. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

With the Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) portion of the 2018 USEA Educational Symposium completed, attendees moved to the Clubhouse at the Ocala Jockey Club for the start of the Young Event Horse (YEH) Symposium. With many significant changes to the Young Event Horse Program being implemented this year, this year’s Young Event Horse Symposium covered the particulars of the new judging and scoring system.

The morning began with an summary of the program changes from YEH Committee Chair Marilyn Payne, including additional information about the particulars of the 2018 East and West Coast Championships.

  • In response to the need for the jumping courses at the East and West Coast Championships to be more similar, the West Coast Championships will take place at Fresno County Horse Park in 2018 and Derek di Grazia will design both Championships courses to help ensure their similarity.
  • The judges will be the same for both Championships and Sally Ike and Lucinda Green are this year’s judges. Judges will no longer confer with each other during the jumping phase, which will speed up the judging process. Conformation at the Championships will be judged by Christian Schacht.
  • There will be a rider briefing prior to the Championships so that the judges can communicate what they’re looking for with the riders.
  • The new abbreviated score sheets will result in a faster scoring process and more immediate results.
  • The score sheets for the jumping phase have been completely overhauled and the new system will now be able to reflect faults such as rails and refusals more objectively.
  • YEH qualifying competitions have been simplified and will no longer include the conformation phase, speeding up the competition and relieving organizers of the responsibly to hire an additional judge. Conformation will still be judged at Championships.
  • Championship courses will offer an option for one show jumping fence and one cross-country combination with a slightly higher level of difficulty so that riders who wish to do so may display their horse’s scope.
  • The USEA is currently looking into creating a year-long YEH leaderboard akin to the rider leaderboards.

Payne then moved on to examine the changes to the scoring system and judging directives in greater detail. The score sheets for YEH Qualifiers and YEH Championships have been rewritten, and the different sections have been weighted so that jumping/gallop/general impression now accounts for 70% of the total score. “70 percent of the score is now about the jumping phase, and I think that’s what it should be because two of the three disciplines are about jumping,” Kai-Steffen Meier observed. “In our sport, we need to have good jumpers. For a young horse, the first thing I look for is the jump.” The jumping phase will now contain exactly five show jumping fences and 10 cross-country fences, each of which will be judged on a score from 0.0 to 3.0. Horse will also be evaluated out of 10 on rideability, between fences, and the gallop.

Marilyn Payne discussing the new judging critera with attendees at this morning's session of the YEH Symposium. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

The dressage tests have also been rewritten. The two tests are now almost identical, contain the same number of movements, and are significantly shorter. The only difference between the two tests is the addition of trot and canter lengthenings in the 5-year-old test. These tests do not contain a halt at the beginning or the end of the test and the walk is scored as the horse leaves the arena.

Following Payne’s presentation, the group engaged in a practice scoring session with the new score sheets by watching videos of jumping rounds from the 2017 YEH East Coast Championships, scoring them, and then discussing the scores as a group. This practice session gave the judges and prospective judges in attendance, as well as others involved in the YEH program like riders and trainers, the opportunity to understand what the judges are looking for and why a judge might score specific jump in a particular way.

Kai-Steffen Meier offered his insights into the young horse system and provided some tips for judges to keep in mind when scoring horses on the jumping phase. “When judging young horses, you need to be well aware that it is a young horse and the problems that can come with that,” Meier reminded the group. “If he’s a very tall horse, for example, he will have trouble coming back, but when you have a small quick horse, it will be much easier. You need to take a good look and see if the mistakes that are happening are because the horse is young or because he is making mistakes.”

After the morning session, the group moved to Longwood Farm South to practice judging with the new scoring system with live dressage tests and jumping rounds. Meier performed the 4-year-old test and Leslie Law rode the 5-year-old test while attendees judged each horse on the walk, trot, canter, and submission. Judges are looking to see the horse demonstrate rhythm in each of the gaits in addition to suppleness, elasticity, impulsion, and balance. For the submission score, judges should rate the horse based on suppleness and obedience. For both tests, the group compared scores and engaged in discussion about why they scored the horse that way, then heard from Meier and Law what they thought about their mounts.

Leslie Law demonstrating the new 5-year-old YEH dressage test. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Attendees moved from the dressage court to the cross-country field to practice judging the jumping/galloping portion of the Young Event Horse test. For the six demonstration horses, ridden alternately by Meier and Law, onlookers judged each of the 15 jumping efforts on a scale from 0.0 to 3.0 and gave each horse a score out of 10 for rideability, between fences, and gallop. They also gave a score out of 10 for general impression, which is a reflection of the horse’s suitability for the three- and four-star levels of eventing. Again, participants engaged in discussion about each score for both the fences and the overall evaluation metrics to justify why or why not they awarded a certain score.

These live judging sessions provided an excellent opportunity for current and prospective YEH judges to familiarize themselves with the new scoring system and judging directives under the guidance of Payne with Law and Meier providing their comments on each horse to help describe the “feel” of what onlookers were observing. It was also a chance for riders, trainers, and breeders to glean insight into what YEH judges are looking to see when they evaluate young horses for their eventing potential and what aspects are weighted most heavily in the judge’s consideration.

This 5-year-old mare was the highest scoring young horse of the afternoon's demo session. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

Law reminded the group that while we are looking for the potential 3- and 4-star horses, not every good horse will be suited to that job. Many young horses will make exceptionally competitive young rider horses, while still others will make the perfect adult amateur’s lower level mount. The group in attendance today had the opportunity to observe and judge horses that were examples of each of these types. Law also observed that some horses will not have come into their own yet at 4 or 5 years old, but by the time they are 10 or 11 they are doing more than one would have expected based on what they expressed when they were younger.

The last day of this year’s Educational Symposium, the Future Event Horse (FEH) Symposium, will begin tomorrow morning at the Ocala Jockey Club and continue at Longwood Farm South in the afternoon.

Check out the daily coverage and photo galleries from day one and day two of the ICP Symposium.

The USEA would like to thank EquiAppraisal, LLC for sponsoring this year’s Educational Symposium.

The USEA would also like to thank ICP, YEH, and FEH Sponsors who make these programs possible: Standlee Hay CompanyMerck Animal HealthSmartPak, and Professional’s Choice.

About the USEA Young Event Horse Program

The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the three- and four-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.

The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to view the jumping standards and specifications.

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