To fulfill a requirement towards my USEF "r" Judges Program I attended a judges forum at the Region 8 Championships in Saugerties, NY. We had a group of judges ranging from "L" to "R" practicing their judging skills with Mariane Ludwig, a USEF "S" judge. On Saturday we sat along Ring 5 where we watched First, Second, and Third level tests. Most of the classes were open including adult amateurs and junior riders. Mariane talked into a headset and everyone listened through their earphones. It was a great way to look at different aspects of the ride, focusing on individual scores or just the collectives. We took turns judging an entire test with the headset and giving our comments at the end. At the end of the day we watched some of the young horse tests for 4, 5, and 6 year olds. The format for this test is different in that the judge gives verbal feedback directly to the rider and the scores are simpler. Instead of a score for each individual movement the judge gives a score for overall impression. On Sunday we started at Ring 2 and watched the Intermediare 1 Championship class. We saw a few lovely rides and a few not so lovely rides. There was a wide range in that class with scores from 50% to 68%. Then we moved to Ring 6 and watched the Third Level 3 Adult Amateur Championship class. Lastly we sat at Ring 1 and watched some First and Third Level Freestyles. I enjoyed this the most, we were joined by dressage judge Janet Foy and she also gave feedback on the freestyles she had judged the day before. There were a couple freestyles that had creative choreography and musical themes. Mariane is not a fan of techno/hip hop music and did not appreciate a freestyle with a variety of Britney Spears songs. She liked the classical music a lot and wanted to see creativity in the routine but have it flow. Sometimes riders try too hard to make it difficult and it gets choppy and chaotic. Janet also commented that a rider should get all the required movements out of the way before adding movements that would be added to the degree of difficulty. That way the judge is not worried during the test that rider will forget something. For example, in First level you are required to include a change of lead through the trot. For added difficulty a rider could do a simple change from canter, walk, to canter. If the rider shows a simple change at the beginning of the freestyle the judge will be wondering if that was supposed to be a change of lead through trot and be confused. It is beneficial to make a routine easy to judge and have movements be easily recognized. They also recommended that riders not always use the entire 5 minutes. Most of the freestyles seemed to last too long and the riders looked like they were just filling up the time rather then keeping it short and simple. I ran into a lot of people I knew at the show and had a fun time at the dinner party on Saturday night. They did the awards ceremony for the afternoon classes, a golf cart contest, and even had a costume contest! It was a long drive home Sunday afternoon, almost 8 hours with all the stops along the way. My poor van is racking up the miles big-time!! I have put over 70,000 miles on her within the last year and a half!!