I have a confession to make. I am still afraid of the dressage judges. When they come into the press conference they come as a united group and it’s a daunting prospect to think of approaching any of them when they are all lined up like ducks in a row. So I was both pleased and humbled that Maribel Alonso emailed me the day after the freestyles with reflections from her position inside the judging booth. I know that many people think I have it in for the judges. but what I really have is a desire for honesty and transparency. I have noticed a significant (and positive) change in attitudes since Hong Kong – thanks in part to the power shift precipitated by HRH at the FEI General Assembly in 2008. I was not being ironic when I praised the words spoken by Stephen Clarke after the team dressage competition. His colleague Mary Seefried echoed those sentiments the next day after the GPS when the judges were again asked to reconcile some irreconcilable differences in their scores. But I was still afraid to challenge a judge to her face about a score. Fortunately some judges do seem to read this blog, so a bit of dialogue came out of it after all – and the next time I wonder why Maribel gave a certain score I will not hesitate to ask her why.
Maribel has kindly given me permission to share her comments with you. Here they are, unedited in content. (If you are dazed and confused about this post, you might want to read my blog from October 1 called ‘Live stream, the final part’.)
“Despite the fact that this lovely combination made the crowd go crazy there were a few technical issues that I found difficult to reward with high marks – like the horse’s walk that in the collected was a bit hurried; the extended walk took too long to relax and show overtracking; the canter pirouettes were quite big, not to mention the last halt as well as sometimes going a bit hurried.
“And as you say -Stephen talked about education and in the education system the way it is today, these technical points have an influence on the performance.
“So I just kept my standard, and despite the fact that I liked this combination a lot and I had given high marks on the day of the GPS, and I could see the great degree of difficulty in his perfomance, I debated a lot between these two situations.”
I thank Maribel for her willingness to let me quote her. This is an encouraging development, don’t y’all think?