Equestrian Canada is currently proceeding with a Competition Review across all disciplines.
Dressage competitions are to be aligned with the Sport Canada’s, “Long Term Athlete (Equestrian) Development” model.
What might this look like at the national levels, intro through fourth level Dressage?
Right now competitions use a rank order scoring system which awards the top exhibitor 1st, another 2nd, 3rd, etc. based on a score is called the “American System” or the “Peer System.” There may also be special categories such as “Breed Awards”, “High Point”etc. While the American system uses standards and requirements, it primarily uses the idea of competition between exhibitors, pitting one competitor against another to establish the rankings. In the Olympics, there can be only one gold, silver and bronze. That is the essence of the “American system”.
The other way to award excellence is the “Group Method” or “Danish System”, where competitors are measured against standards, not ranked against others.
The Group System was common in school where A, B, C, D, & F grades used to be given. There might be 7 students with an A (meets excellent levels of ability) 12 with a B (above average levels), 14 with a C (average levels).
An award based on achieving a standard, uses the Danish or Group System.
Since more than one exhibitor can meet the each level of standards, many more ribbons are handed out. This creates a more meaningful level of achievement for competitors.
The Group System allows the appropriate a award based on the judges’ determination of the scores earned. Judges scores would not compare athlete to athlete, as in the American System. Instead, a judge determines whether the exhibitors meet or exceed standards. The Danish system encourages novices and intermediate exhibitors to do their best and strive to reach the highest levels even if they are not quite there yet. If novices are too intimidated to enter, the field narrows, the event dies. It helps people become better instead of just rewarding the best. It keeps the event populated and alive.
What would Group System Awards look like in Dressage?
There needs to be a discussion concerning threshold scores for awards, but here is one idea:
1st place Red Rosette: highest quality of execution of the directives of the level and movements within the test. 68% or higher score.
2nd Place Blue Rosette: above average quality and execution of the directives of the level and movements within the test. Perhaps a few minor details to be improved upon. 63% – 67.999%
3rd Place White Rosette: average quality and execution of the directives of the level and movements within the test. Perhaps accuracy and attention to details of the required movements.
59.999% – 62.999%
Right now there is an Equestrian Canada rule that a competitor must achieve a 60% score in order to be awarded a 1st place under our current Peer or American System. One may argue that this score would not reflect an excellent result.
Meaningful Competition needs to reward excellence and also encourage athletes to pursue it. Results, need to be motivating, achievable and reproducible.