State of the art education system takes dressage judging into the 21st century

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Tue, 17 May 2022 16:31

Following three years of research, planning and development, British Dressage is launching a new judge education system that will revolutionise how officials learn, develop and progress within the sport.

The new education framework will offer standardised, benchmarked and transparent training, evaluation and assessments for judges, within a quality assured programme, and provide world-leading technology to facilitate remote learning for officials.

At the heart of the system is a bespoke online platform developed with one of British Dressage’s partners, equestrian innovators Black Horse One (BHO).  The programme is an integral part of BD’s investment strategy to improve the membership experience and support the development of judges, by offering a training programme that will help them qualify and progress through the levels, as well as become confident using digital judging software.

The online training will be complemented with face-to-face delivery and self-directed activities to provide a blended learning model overall. This modular approach will provide candidates with the opportunity to put their developing skills into practice, rather than focus purely on examinations.

Historically, judge training has heavily focused on the technical aspects, with the overall quality varying across the country. The new compulsory training required for this system is consistent, regardless of the location, and will deliver elements that will give candidates a more complete skillset, which will ultimately have a positive impact on both judges and competitors.

Members will experience the benefits of the new judge education system in many ways, including:

  • Improved standardisation in marking
  • More consistent scoring for panel judging
  • Better quality feedback to help riders improve and progress
  • Increased focus on integrity, welfare and safeguarding protocols.

The modular training programme will provide an accessible, flexible approach for judge candidates and trainees to tie in with busy working lives.  The new training system also offers better value for money, as the assessment can be completed in the candidate’s own home, with no requirement to sit examinations in person and therefore no associated travel or accommodation costs.

Under the old system, candidates had to sit three separate assessments at a designated venue on specific dates.  Now the assessment will be conducted remotely and invigilated using online software, meaning judges can manage their time more efficiently. In turn, this approach will also contribute to our sustainability mission by eliminating unnecessary travel, reducing emissions and energy use.

Feedback from our judges told us that they wanted a consistent and fair system that would meet their development needs and prepare them for the judging environment, more than just how to award marks.  It was also clear that they wanted a more logical and standardised approach.  A working party was set up with the vision to create a new system that would delivers all of this, while also embracing the latest technology available in a way that was simple and easy to use.

The online BHO platform will transform the level of information that judges can access about their own performance, whether they are using the platform for one of the many training seminars available for Continuing Professional Development (CPD), as part of the practice tests before an exam, or the actual assessment itself.  Each judge using the system will receive a colour coded report with a mark by mark, comment by comment analysis, providing high quality feedback to aid their learning.

In the assessment, candidates will judge ten previously recorded tests against a benchmark set by master judges.  The scores must be within acceptable ranges, ensure the class ranking is in the correct order and, just like a driving test, that they do not ‘hit the curb’ or make any major mistakes.  Each candidate will receive a post-assessment report that highlights their areas of strength and outlines any development needs.  In pilot tests, those sitting the online assessment achieved double the pass rates of the old system.

The new judge education programme will also see candidates working closely with coaches and riders for a more cohesive approach.  This will enable judges to share different perspectives and empathise with the work that goes into training horses to each level, which will help to continually drive standards in the quality of riding and judging, as well as equine welfare.

A significant part of the process has been to upskill the tutor judges and judge educators to help with the standardisation of the system so that all training is delivered consistently across the regions, as well as central activity.  Over 750 judges are already registered for the new system, with the first online assessments due to take place in the autumn of 2022.

BD Judges Director and FEI 5* Judge Peter Storr commented, “After three years of development, it is incredibly exciting to launch our new, modern judge education system.  We are now able to offer an assessment opportunity that will significantly reduce travel costs and expenses, which I am sure will be greatly appreciated at the present time, especially for judges in our more remote regions.

“I think the pandemic has encouraged us all to embrace technology and I am looking forward to working with Black Horse One for our online judge training and qualifications. I have previously used Black Horse when judging at international competitions, as well as using the system to deliver seminars and test candidate judges, and it continues to impress me.

“I would like to express our thanks and appreciation to everyone on the Judge Education Working Party and Judges Committee that helped put this new system together – and especially the late Linda Whetstone for all her input, help and encouragement.  Linda would be very proud to see this project finally come to fruition.”

Charlotte Osborne, BD Training and Education Manager, said: “Finalising the system has required a mammoth effort from all involved, but none of it would have been possible without the knowledge and expertise of our Judge Education Working Party and Judges Committee, so we really value their input. The key objective from the outset was to deliver an innovative, world leading system that would not only improve the learning that judges receive, but also enhance the competitor experience, through consistent judging and high-quality feedback.

“Judges are critical to our sport, and we want to give them the tools to do the job to the best of their ability.  We also recognise that the future of judging lies in digital systems, so it is vitally important that how we train, monitor and evaluate judges takes full advantage of the technology available.”

Jason Brautigam, CEO of British Dressage, added , “British Dressage has made a significant investment in our workforce in recent years and the development of our officials was a key part of the five-year strategy we launched last year.  This new education system will equip our judges with a more rounded skillset and provide them with the competencies and confidence they require to progress through the levels.

“We recognise that everyone learns in different ways, at different speeds, and the online platform will therefore provide a much-improved experience all round. We hope it will help to significantly raise standards in our sport, as well as encourage a culture of life-long learning and continuing professional development to make our judges the best in the world.”