Notes from the USDF Convention in Denver last week

I just returned from 2 days of business meetings at the USDF Convention in Denver.  I attended the Region 8 meetings where members updated everyone present about local and national news affecting us. The primary concern was of course the budget in light of the current economic climate.  How do we continue to support our members, grow the membership, implement the budget fairly and effectively and remember to have fun.

I also attended all the open judges meetings where discussion was all about how to score consistently while developing a methodology that the riders and trainers can relate to and understand. The emphasis was on the riders score which is multiplied times 3 in an effort to encourage riders to learn to ride more effectively and correctly.

The collective scores are at the end of a dressage test, and consist of the gaits, submission, impulsion and rider. In the past each of these scores have been times 2, but with the added emphasis on the rider, now times three, the final results of a class can be altered significantly.  Imagine two close scores and one rider receives at 8 (x3=24) vs. a rider who scores 6 (x3=18), those 6 points will dramatically affect the final score.

There was also discussion on judges learning to use the scale more completely rather than relying on 6 and 7’s, that is we need to give more 3 and 4’s when deserved and not be afraid to reward good riding and well executed movements with nine or a ten. Also, judges must remember that scores of 6 or less must receive comments using the glossary of terms, and care must be given that comments are observations rather than teaching. The Judges job is to reflect what they see to the rider and the final results should place the best horse/rider combination at the top of the leaderboard.

The highlight of the convention was meeting Robert Dover who graciously answered a variety of questions about his career. Although he rode many great horses in his illustrious career spanning several decades and many Olympics, his favorite was Kennedy, a small horse under 16 hands with a heart of gold and a mind who only thought forward no matter what. Robert also had us laughing about stories from each of the many Olympics and Champioships he rode in,  speaking about how we must all keep the sport in perspective. After all he said, it is a silly to think we ride around a small rectangle perfecting these movements, but he agreed it is a high form of art when performed in harmony.

Although he has officially retired from the sport, Robert remains active on the International board of FEI as an important voice to guide the sport in a new direction away from the stacked deck of politics that has evolved.

I also introduced the new training series of DVD’s to many friends and colleagues from around the country with excellent input and ideas for future training sessions.  Swanson Peterson Productions is working on a TV pilot which will be an opportunity to showcase the sport of Dressage and hopefully expand our sport in new directions.

Don’t forget to order your Rex Peterson training videos by Christmas (and receive free shipping) at