Does Dressage Need Golf Handicaps?
In her post, Our Responsibility To Dressage Judges, Bonnie Walker says that
There has been much talk about placing a different standard of testing for the adult amateur versus the professional …
Wtf? Seriously? Incidentally, Ms. Walker does not approve
… and I am against this. While my sympathies lie with the AA who gets slammed at a show THERE IS A REASON. It is not as though your judge sees you enter the ring all doe-eyed and adorable and grins with malice.
With Previous Horse, I spent many years in hunter/jumper land. It always seemed to me that the amateurs were regarded with a faint air of condescension. Necessary as cash cows but not quite real riders. (Yes, I was an amateur. Yes, it reflects my insecurities. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong.) Now a group of folks are volunteering to enter into that arrangement?
In case, I am being too subtle, I am whole-heartedly against easing of standards. If you want respect as a rider, go out and earn it. In addition, it’s not as simple as professionals vs. amateurs. Compare an amateur rider supported by a well-off family to a professional who teaches 14 beginner lessons and then rides his competition horse by headlights. I know where my sympathies lie.
If we must take action to appease folks, I offer this suggestion, courtesy of Hubby:
Rider Handicaps for Dressage
Here’s how I see it working. Judges proceed normally. Raw scores are posted in one column. Next to it is a multiplier based on experience, previous wins, past scores, what-have-you. Ribbons are award based on the adjusted score. As you improve, your handicap at that level goes down, discouraging riders from dwelling at a certain level. A ride at a new level gets a bigger handicap, cutting riders a bit of slack, inviting people to move up. The multiplier would be small enough to adjust for the halo effect without covering egregious errors in riding. While this would have been a bear 20 years ago, computers could be programmed to input the handicap along with other rider data.
Exceptions could be made. Raw scores could be used for qualifiers, or moving up, or whatever. Upper levels &/or bigger shows would not allow handicaps. After all, if you aren’t a scratch rider, what are you doing there?
A lot more math needs to be done, but the basic idea is on any given day, every rider has a chance to win the class. Golf does it. Hubby’s crew regattas do it. Horse racing is built on it. There is no inherent reason handicapping wouldn’t work.
What think you? Ask your friends. Post the link on forums and bulletin boards. I hereby invite the Internet firestorm telling me why this is a horrible idea.