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Diary of a Dressage Judge - The European Young Riders Dressage Championships

Lorraine MacDonald

Canada's FEI I judge Lorraine MacDonald recently officiated at the European Young Rider Dressage Championships held July in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy.

The competition, which ran from Tuesday to Sunday with two rings and five judges on each ring, saw some of the best horse/rider combinations across Europe compete for the coveted Gold Medal.

The following is an overview by MacDonald about her experiences:

"It was truly an honour to be invited to the European Young Riders Championships. I believe this was the first time a North American has judged this prestigious European event which was held at the end of July just 20 kilometers from Rome.

Judging was interesting and challenging. I had never seen any of the riders or horses so this was to be a real test of my knowledge -- to add to the pressure, the scribes were not always fluent in English however I coped and found humour in most of the situations. There were computers in each booth and therefore instant announcement of scores from each judge as the test was finished--no time to change your mind! I held my breath on a few occasions but felt firm in my convictions and as a team, our President, Mr. Bernard Maurel, said we judged well. I must say that the best won at the end of the day and I was satisfied that I had done my part. The top combinations earned scores in the low seventies--there were many excellent rides. The Germans were the strongest overall team with other countries doing well also. The Brits had an outstanding horse--an 8-9 mover with exceptional cadence and suspension. He was not as balanced/collected and exact as some of the German horses but definitely made quite an impression. Jane Kidd from Britain who was judging the Juniors was so excited by his performance and so proud. The Sunday freestyles were televised as well as the late evening(ended in the dark) closing ceremonies which were very emotional. The German anthem kept playing as their flag was raised time and again..

The competition ran from Tuesday to Sunday with two rings and five judges on
each ring--one for the Young Riders and the other for the Juniors. The results are on the internet. It was a short exciting eight days with many famous riders, chefs and judges present.

Those who know me well will find it amusing to know that my luggage didn't arrive for four days due to late and missed flights. Shopping in Italy isn't easy--mainly for size 2 females and for the very young. I couldn't believe that I was a size 46 in Italian sizing--I'm honestly not that big! I did manage to find 6 pairs of Italian shoes and a few things.

We all stayed at the estate called the Villa Graciolla --200 years old and formerly owned by a Cardinal. My room had a beautiful ornate iron balcony which over looked Rome. The night time view was fabulous. My group normally judged from 4 in the afternoon till 8:30 in the evening. Most everything in Rome shuts down in the afternoon. However, the Junior panel worked much harder starting at 8 and going right through till evening. We ate outside most evenings quite late and tested the Italian wines--the meals were light and mostly fish. They eat much lighter than we do(or than I do). The weather was hot-much the same as Toronto--during the day the rooms were air conditioned but at night it was turned off. I kept missing Jean Paul the Pope. He left Toronto the same day as I flew to Rome. I was hoping we'd be on the same flight but he went to Guatemala. Then, on Friday we toured some villages and saw his summer place which was surrounded by police--JP returned
that day. We slipped past each other again.

The Americans headed by Michael Poulin had a group of young riders at the competition to observe and learn from the Europeans. What a great opportunity because of the great variety of riders and horses and the opportunity to see such high quality rides and training. The effort was fully funded by one their national organizations. Great concept.

It was a special lifetime experience -- I saw alot, learned alot of italian and made many new friends but and was happy to come home to my family and friends and to Canada."

Lorraine MacDonald

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