Western Dressage virtual competitions.

Horse owners can show from the comfort of their own home with North American Western Dressage’s (NAWD) virtual competitions, where video footage of each performance is uploaded and judged remotely.

NAWD is leading the way towards inclusive, fairer and more ethical training and competitions by widening the options and improving the objectivity and transparency of their Dressage Judging Scoring System. 

True to their mission to be the ‘Future of Western Horsemanship’, the NAWD’s judging leadership implements a continual development philosophy, so when they learned about Dr McLean’s proposal for an Objective Judging Scoring system, they decided to act, adopt and implement the reforms.

Furthermore, NAWD are also adopting Dr McLean’s proposal to establish a ‘firewall’ or ceiling for marks instructing judges to award a score no greater than ‘4’ to anyone that rides with their horse’s face (facial profile) behind the vertical and does not make an attempt to correct it

The equitation science judging system is connected to the training scale, which when combined with a solid understanding of equine movement and bio-mechanics, provides the foundation for all horsemanship activities.

By aligning judging scores to a scale of training priorities, the judge’s marks can reflect the training error, something which, in turn, gives trainers a better idea of where they have gone wrong and what elements need to be re-trained or refined.

The revised evidence-based scale adopted by the NAWD will allow judging to become more accurate and fair and would be able to be used in all equestrian sports. The use of a more horse aware judging criteria will ultimately improve the longevity of our equestrian partners and equestrian sports.

A not-for-profit organisation, NAWD prides itself on a philosophy of inclusion and providing its members with fun, affordable ways to participate in this popular new sport regardless of the type, breed, size or colour of their horse and the talent, educational background, or preferred discipline of its rider.

NAWD’s virtual competitions, where video footage of each performance is uploaded and judged remotely, are rapidly gaining popularity.

In 2015, NAWD judges evaluated over 800 rides in virtual competitions and individual submissions for Western Dressage, Ground tests, Western Dressage Trail tests and Traditional Dressage classes. Through the virtual system, riders benefit from being able to review the video of their test as they read through the judge scores and comments – a great enhancement to the educational process that is a benefit of showing.

NAWD professional and Licensed Western Dressage Judge Michael Gerini, PhD said: “At NAWD, we were immediately impressed with the expanded detail and ease of use of Andrew’s system. It ties into the training scale more easily and gives more details to the qualifications and possible reasons for a score.

“In August of 2015, I travelled to the International Equitation Science Conference in Vancouver, Canada, and was able to see Andrew’s system in use. Upon returning home, I met with the executive leadership team of NAWD and we discussed the opportunity to implement this for our Traditional Dressage, Western Dressage, Ground work, Trail and Ranch Horse Western Dressage classes judged through our virtual system and when NAWD licensed judges are used at NAWD specific shows.

“The judging team at North American Western Dressage sat down and worked with Dr. McLean to further refine the system to make it flow from the use of the 0 to 10 score given in dressage to tie this into the Training scale and place all this in alignment with more detailed qualifications and potential reasons for scores.”

NAWD announced it will use this system throughout 2016 in all of its judging to further promote a balanced system that is objective, ethical, transparent and more easily helps riders and trainers stay in alignment with training and showing that is based on the welfare of the equine and education of the horse and rider.

Furthermore, NAWD are also adopting Andrew’s proposal to establish ‘firewalls’ or ceilings for marks where if any steps are not present, the mark is frozen at a step below. From February 1st, judges will award a score no greater than ‘4’ to anyone that rides with their horse’s face behind the vertical and does not make an attempt to correct it.

“I greatly applaud the NAWD for their progressive aspirations in seeking true fairness in the sport of dressage” says Dr Andrew McLean. “I firmly believe that embracing a judging system that is as objective as humanly possible will make for an unparalleled transparent and fair system that will give competitors and judges alike confidence in the justice of judging as well as highlighting and showcasing the highest standards of sport-horse welfare.

“Maintaining this approach of constantly reviewing and improving the judging process will undoubtedly mean the future of this sport is not only guaranteed, but also that it will increasingly become the gold standard of fairness and positive sport-horse welfare.

“I feel sure that this NAWD initiative will lead the way in the eventual transformation of all dressage judging because in the end, it is the increasingly educated public who, by their attendance and the power of social media, praise or condemn what they see.”

NAWD offers a variety of programs—Six Feet on the Ground groundwork tests, traditional Western Dressage, Western Dressage Trail and Ranch Horse Western Dressage, and Pre-Intro Western Dressage for even the youngest exhibitors—as well as virtual coaching and showing opportunities, achievement awards and more.

Learn more about NAWD, virtual testing or its Judges education program at nawdhorse.org and at facebook.com/WesternDressageNAWD.