Judging & Scribing

Dressage tests are judged by licensed judges. Judges give scores from 1 to 10 (half points are also allowed) for a predetermined set of movements, which increase in difficulty as the horse and rider moves up the levels. The national levels of competition start at Introductory Level and go through Fourth Level. For each test, there is also a directive. The directive states the purpose of the test and the overall concept for the level.

Judges view. Photo by Jennifer Munson.

During a test, the judge normally sits at the letter C. For competitions where several judges are used, judges may also be seated at B, E, H, or M. The judge is assisted by a scribe, who writes the judge's scores and comments on the score sheet. The comments are meant to help the rider understand each of the individual scores.

In addition to the regular tests, riders may also ride a freestyle (set to music) or pas de deux (two horses and riders). Each of these types of tests has specific guidelines. There are also special classes, where young horses and breeding stock are shown in-hand and judged. Young horses are judged for their potential to become a dressage sport horse, and breeding stock is judged on their capability of producing dressage sport horses.

Schooling shows are not recognized by USDF and the scores do not count for USDF awards. Schooling shows are a great way to practice riding tests or to learn to scribe. Once you have scribed at schooling shows and at the lower levels, you will gain the confidence to scribe at higher levels and at larger competitions. Scribing is a great way to learn what the judges are looking for and, like other volunteer positions, it can be a great way to meet new friends and support the local Group Member Organizations. If you would like to learn more about scribing, view the USDF Guide for Scribes.