• Crystal Forsell

Continuing Education for Judges: Seminar with Lilo Fore 2/18-2/19/17

Updated: Jun 30, 2018

It’s been about three weeks since I have arrived in Austin, Texas.  My mare, Layla arrived two weeks ago and has settled in at her new home well.  Last weekend I spent a little bit of time volunteering to read for riders at the Central Texas Dressage Society Mini Show.  That was a fun morning and I got to meet a few people in the area.  This weekend I have been really looking to, was a continuing education seminar for judges and L graduates hosted by Austin Dressage Society and taught by the infallible Lilo Fore.  This was one of the more organized educational events I have been to and was held at Southwestern University, a beautiful campus set in charming downtown Georgetown.  The lecture hall was fabulous with great audio/visual we could all see and hear.  Hooray!  The instructors had lunch with Lilo today and we were able to pick her brain a little more about training and showing.  She has so much to share in a concise way and so willing to share it all.  She is truly dedicated to educating dressage riders.


The beautiful Southwestern University Campus

While we spent plenty of time on the nitty gritty numbers watching dressage tests, I want to share some of the take home “gems” that Lilo gave us.

I found that Lilo would almost jump at the chance to reward the positive things that she saw in a test and encouraged the rest to do the same.  She commented numerous times on how if you were reluctant to reward a good movement you may get in trouble by being too low.  You must know your scoring system well.  You’ll be in even more trouble if you become inconsistent and the placings of your class don’t come out right.

When commenting, “start with the positive first” was Lilo’s mantra throughout the weekend.  It also requires a talent to make a positive comment but keep the rider working in the right direction.  Which brings up the next point…


Scores and comments should be for the welfare of the horse.  In other words, how is your comment going to effect the rider and their schooling when they go home?  This is very important, a judge does not want to send their rider off on the wrong path and create misery for the horse.  The training scale and seeing that training is going in the right direction may sway the judge into the higher mark.  On the same token, training going in the wrong direction should not get rewarded.


On the collective marks, something that is very important and sometimes gets misconstrued is the definition of submission.  Submission is not subordination or slavery of the horse to the rider.  It is rather his constant attention, willingness, and confidence, behavior and harmony.


Impulsion does not mean speed.  In fact, speed can kill impulsion which relates to the carrying power of the horse and controlled energy.  Think a little more air time with energy, but not the quickening of the feet.

Collection is developed through the balance of the horse taking more weight onto the hind legs.  It does not mean that the gait slows.  He may take smaller steps with greater height over the ground.


It is important to understand the judge’s scale, not just in numbers, but the meanings behind the numbers.  Here’s is the scale, with comments from Lilo:


1-3 “Bad” You may make a decision here on what number to use based on the welfare of the horse.

4- “Insufficient” Mistakes not due to basics, or that score may have been lower. An example here would be a shoulder in that was unrecognizable.  No legs off the track or bend.

5- “Marginal” Performed, recognizable, but lacks balance and quality. Shoulder in example, the horse shows some bend and three tracks but is on the forehand, maybe had a rhythm problem for a few strides due to balance.

6- “Satisfactory” Fulfilling expectations or needs, acceptable, but needs more of everything for a seven.  “Am I satisfied?”  Correct. A correctly performed shoulder in but could show more engagement, or anything other quality.

7- “Fairly good” Shows an understanding of the level. Shoulder in was correctly performed and adds some quality.  The horse and rider capture the essence of the shoulder in which should be to improve the horse, but could still show more engagement, balance, collection, lift in shoulders, etc. for an eight.

8- “Good” Adds a degree of brilliance.

9- “Very good” Has a wow factor.   I am going to paint the reader a picture here.  I like to visualize what my test should look like.  My imagination is always going to make my horse look like a at least a nine!   The eight or nine horse probably trotted in the ring with eight or nine trot, under a well balanced rider with a clear understanding of the requirements of the level.  They go to perform shoulder in and the horse may even improve the trot more, as he steps more under himself, lifts the shoulders with expression all while creating the picture of harmony and absolute understanding with his rider.

10- “Excellent” When you can’t find anything to improve.  Ten does not mean perfect.

Half points can be used when you strongly feel that the horse deserves the base number, but isn’t quite to the next mark up.


These were just some of the points from the weekend and one that I wanted to share with the reader.  I encourage everyone to take advantage of the educational opportunities that USDF and your GMO’s provide.  Don’t think it needs to be a riding environment to learn, theory is just as important and a supplement to your clinics and lessons.  Also, don’t think that because you’re not of a certain level or status that these opportunities aren’t for you.  They are for everyone.  Check in on the USDF website and stay connected with your GMO for the next educational event and sign up!

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Leander, TX​​

Tel: 510.432.7758

crystal@crystalforselldressage.com

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© 2018 by Crystal Forsell