Monday, July 9, 2018

YEH Jump Scribing @ MDHT

Last week I headed down to Loch Moy to volunteer at their YEH qualifier as a scribe for the jumping phase. The Young Event Horse program is a set of classes aimed at 4yos and 5yos to evaluate their potential as future upper level event horses.

You might remember that last fall I attended the East Coast YEH Championships up at Fair Hill, specifically attending Marilyn Payne's YEH Judging Clinic. I wrote a little bit about it here (there were an awful lot of blogger meetups happening around then lol!), and posted more pics of the 5yos during the jumping phase here, but didn't get too technical in any of the judging aspects bc... ya know... I don't really have a judge's eye when it comes to these things lol.

only picture of a horse in this post lol. that's me with judges Stephen Bradley, Helen Brettell, with first rider of the day: Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch on her 5yo Abstract Cape schooling the water ahead of her round.
fun fact: Stephen Bradley was the last rider from the US to win at Burghley, which he did in 1993. you can watch the highlight video from that year right here at Burghley TV.
But!! I really love volunteering at Loch Moy specifically (they always give us apparel plus xc schooling passes, which I really need to start using....). So when Sara announced her 2018 Volunteer Challenge I decided to bake volunteerism into my yearly goals, with the intention of volunteering in some capacity at events in 7 months this year.

I went on to the USEA Volunteer Dashboard and scanned through Area II's events calendar month by month, picking out interesting opportunities. Esp looking so far in advance, I was able to lock down some really cool looking volunteer positions before they filled up. So I've actually been looking forward to this event for a while now lol. #nerdalert

the stadium portion comprised 5 fences all jumped first before moving to the xc portion
The YEH jumping phase is set up a bit like a cross derby, and Loch Moy ran the classes out on their schooling course at the entrance to the property, vs the competition course you might be used to seeing on the blog. Notably, this will be the area I eventually school in whenever we finally put all those complimentary passes to use haha.

Anyway, the course is 15 flagged elements. The first five are stadium style fences, set at ~BN for the 4yos and ~N for the 5yos. The heights and spreads are supposed to grow throughout the season such that by the time horses reach the championship, 4yos are doing ~N and 5yos are doing ~T (with maybe a little added technicality).

For this course, the heights and spreads were fairly soft. And the lines were also basically unrelated distances, set fairly far apart. All in all, a very inviting course in terms of the jumps themselves. Tho there was actually a fair amount of terrain and tight-ish turns that would all ask the horse to be adjustable and balanced.

sorry i forgot to take my picture before we walked passed these jumps lol, so this is the back side. they're both just roll tops tho, and i've previously jumped them both before (the N one with Izzy)
Once horses completed the stadium portion, they moved on to the xc fences. Judges were looking for a distinct change in the horse from one section to the next - the style and pace should adjust accordingly.

simple pheasant feeders. i've jumped both of these before too, tho the N only with Izzy too
The first set of xc fences took the riders in one big loop of this front field - around the judge's tent and around all the stadium fences they had just completed.

simple houses - these get skinnier as they go up the levels. you might remember Brita and Rachael jumped the skinneh T version this past winter during one of the arena schoolings when Charlie stayed home bc of that whole 'stepped on a nail' episode..
The jumps themselves were fairly straight forward but again the horses would be facing rapidly changing terrain combined with turns. Honestly it looked pretty fun haha.

these are pretend ditch wall jumps - the ditch is just suggested by wooden framing. they're actually quite inviting, tho i've never jumped either personally. you can see our little judges stand just beyond - with the water right next to it
After that little circuit of the field, riders would come back up toward the judge's tent and through the water to move on into the second half of the course on the other side of the field.

simple water crossing, with the whole rest of the course in the background
The YEH rules are pretty friendly toward these young horses - before each rider starts their course they're allowed and encouraged to let the horse look around a little bit, especially going through the water a couple times first too. Some riders took this maybe a touch too far by letting their horse sniff literally every single fence on course lol, but for the most part they would just circle through the water a little bit before signaling that they were ready.

The judges, for their part, did specifically want to wait until the riders were ready too. Like, obviously within reason, but the whole point of these classes is to set the horses up so that they can best demonstrate their potential. It's not supposed to be a trick or a trap, and nobody really wanted these young horses to be surprised, rushed or confused on course.

i've jumped both of these hanging log things too. they actually didn't jump great on this day, esp the left side 4yo version
Anyway the next little segment on course was probably the trickiest. Small fences but tricky lines with the terrain. The judge Stephen designed this course but apparently wasn't allowed or able to move the xc fences, so he kinda had to work with what he had here. So he chose small and inviting fences for the 11 and 13 jumps, with one long line of ditches situated between as 12.

long line of ditches, from very narrow to a bit wider L to R. then comes 13 - just in the distance. the 4yo 13 is very small, and the 5yo 13 has appeared on both BN and N courses and i've jumped it with both horses.
The 5yos (who went first) maybe had an easier line even tho they went over the bigger ditch, but the 4yo line had more extreme angles and especially going downhill was maybe trickier haha.

A couple riders expressed some concern, and the judges ultimately opted to remove the central flags (the 4yo red 12 flag in the above picture) such that the entire line of ditches was an option. This way, riders could jump whichever portion of the ditch helped give them the best line for their horse's ability.

i've jumped both these garden gates too! plus the smaller version lol
After horses made it through that little ditch complex, it was a simple matter of climbing up the hill to these penultimate fences, the garden gates.

final option: keyhole with very small fence, and larger N ramp table thingy. riders from both 4yo and 5yo did both options as suited their particular horses. 
Then last on course was an option for both age groups: an N ramp or a very small jump through a keyhole. I honestly wasn't really sure which one would be most popular. On one hand, the keyhole is in some ways spookier and more technical, but on the other hand it's a very small jump that an unimpressed horse might not try very hard over.

I think a lot of horses from both age groups may have done the keyhole, but plenty did the ramp too (esp the 5yos). I guess it just depended on each individual horse and rider what was the best choice.

full final field of xc fences. upon completing jump 15, riders would arc left to follow the driveway back toward us demonstrating their horse's open gallop
Anyway, upon completing the final fences, riders would turn left to follow the driveway back toward the judge's tent, demonstrating their horse's open gallop. Again it was a little tricky with the terrain as the first half was down hill, then the second half had nice upward slope to it but then fell away rapidly right at the finish haha. Plus the trailers were on the other side of the driveway and a lot of horses were a little sticky wanting to pull in that direction.

Still, tho, pretty cool to watch!

4yos at the 2017 YEH East Coast Championship at Fair Hill

Unfortunately, I didn't expect to be able to take any pictures or video during the actual competition bc I'd be, ya know, scribing haha. And this did prove to be true.

5yos at the 2017 YEH East Coast Championship at Fair Hill

So for those curious or interested to see what these classes look like in action, see the above video compilations from the Championships at Fair Hill last year. These young horses are pretty freakin impressive!!

top half of the score sheet. each jump is judged separately from 0-3
So let's talk a little more about the actual scribing. There are four components that go into each horse's final score, which is a percentage out of 100 (ie: 75.5%).

The dressage component has a maximum of 30 points that each horse can earn. The 5 show jumping efforts contribute 15 possible points, then the 10 xc fences add up to another 30 possible points. The judge's overall evaluation of the horse's jumping is worth another 15 possible points, and the final general impression from jumping is a maximum of 10 points.

bottom half of the score sheet allows judges to evaluate all the rest of the horse's performance between the jumps and in its open gallop. final general impression reflected their thoughts on the horse's upper level potential. 
Each individual jumping effort was scored from 0-3, with half points allowed. A score of 3 reflected a nice forward effort with correct technique, usually out of stride, or at least with the horse demonstrating an ability to think and adjust as needed.

Points were lost for more sluggish or unbalanced jumps, sloppier technique, or horses that were overly reliant on the rider. The lowest scores went to jumps taken in very poor form, like over the shoulder or hanging legs or deer leaps.

order of go, also including the New Event Horse (NEH) class - which can be horses of any age in their first year of eventing. the NEH horses did the 4yo track and height. some of the NEH horses were 5yos who weren't ready for the step up in height of the 5yo YEH class. others were ottbs or amateur owned and ridden horses. the NEH score sheet was basically identical to the YEH sheet except in the Overall Evaluation section, instead of "rideability" it listed "suitability" and wanted the score to reflect the horse's suitability to be an amateur or young rider horse.
I usually tried to get those scores added up while the judges watched the open gallop, as it was useful for them to hear the overall totals from the jumping sections as they assessed the overall evaluation and general impressions.

Overall Evaluation was basically where the judges conferred with each other to talk about everything that happened on course that wasn't necessarily reflected in the individual jump effort scores. This included evaluating the horse's final gallop, like it's ground cover and lengthening of stride and lowering of frame.

meanwhile, the photographer's dogs provided the comic relief in the lulls between riders
And they also discussed at length each horse's balance and way of going in between fences. Was he changing leads as needed? Balanced in the changeable terrain? Able to think and learn as it progressed through the course?

There were times where the judges weren't entirely satisfied with how the horses were ridden - meaning that in some cases the riders were interfering with the horse's ability to use itself or show its true potential. Or in some cases the horses were maybe too reliant on the riders or required too strong of a ride.

one was very placid, while the other was very very very playful lol
Mostly tho, the overall evaluation scores ranged from 6-9, with tenths of points awarded such that it might be a 7.2 or 7.5, or 6.0 etc etc etc. During this section, judges often referred back to previous horses' scores too - often asking each other whether they liked this one better than that one so that they could score accordingly using a consistent measuring stick.

It was interesting to me that each of these overall evaluation scores was then multiplied by 0.5 and added together to arrive at their max 15 point component to the final score. So your 7.5 becomes a 3.75, and the differences between scorers thus fairly compressed.

she had gone on and rolled all around in the water, then rolled in the blue stone lol
Anyway the last score component, worth 10 total points to the final score, was the General Impression. This was where judges used a 0-10 range (again with tenths of points allowed) to assess what they thought the horse might be capable of in the future.

The number ranges correspond to eventing levels, with ~7 being around preliminary, and ~8 being around intermediate. Again the purposes of these YEH classes is to evaluate upper level potential so riders would really be looking for that 8+ score here.

It was kinda funny to me tho, bc even the horses that the judges didn't find particularly impressive or talented were sorta dismissed as, "Sure it'll get around prelim, but probably not any further than that!" as if prelim were the easiest thing in the world lol. Which, ya know, I guess if you're Helen Brettell and Stephen Bradley, maybe it is! For me tho, if someone sorta shrugged watching Charlie go and was like, "Eh sure he'd do prelim but that's it" I'd be walking on air lol.

she was a happy pupper for sure lol
But that's kinda the thing with this whole other world that is the upper echelons of eventing. Because it really is a whole 'nother world. I thanked the judges after we were done and said I felt like I learned a lot, and Helen was surprised bc she and Stephen had really mostly been chatting the whole time (there were a LOT of lulls between riders - that short class list was spread over 4:45 hours).

When I explained that I really don't get a lot of exposure to this stuff and that even their "chatting" is enlightening to me she was kinda like, "I guess that makes sense" lol, but yea I definitely felt like the meek little amateur in the presence of giants haha.

It was a great time tho, and I honestly really enjoyed scribing for it and would do it again in a heartbeat. And while we saw some really special horses (this lovely gray Frame Gandolf ridden by Martin Douzant I believe was our 5yo winner, for example), we also saw a lot of horses (and riders!) that, ya know, were just regular old mortals lol.

We saw mistakes, missed distances. Sluggish, behind the leg horses, and horses running at the fences and leaping over somewhat erratically. We saw riders that interfered and picked, or who maybe made poor choices. But, ya know, they were all out there doing it and everyone got through the course and the day looking happy and like maybe they all learned something.

So it was fun. And actually I am now kinda jonesing for riding the same course lol. Maybe my friends and I will try to get out there and play pretend and judge each other's rides accordingly haha..


  1. That sounds like such a cool opportunity! And hah, yeah, I would be thrilled if someone thought my horse would be good at prelim, since that's way beyond my goals right now!

    1. lol yea it's always so funny to me how people who have a ton of experience and have accomplished so much can kinda be a little dismissive of what it took to get there, kinda underrating the lower levels. like, sure i can see how objectively speaking, it's easy to say that many sound and reasonably conformed sport horses can jump at 3'7.... but there's an awful lot more to getting to P than just being able to "do" that height lol, not to mention the fact that the horse has to be able to do it along with a rider who may or may not be of stephen bradley or helen brettell caliber haha. still tho, it's so cool to hear how the other half sees things!

  2. This was a really interesting post! I'm planning to do some FEH classes with my yearling filly this year. Not sure that we'll aim for the YEH classes when she's older, as I'm not sure that I will want to push her to be ready for those at that age. But I still found this really interesting and informative to see what kinds of things the judges are looking for in these young horses.

    1. oooh that's exciting about the FEH classes! i hear ya tho on not being sure yet about the YEH classes. it's definitely a big step up for these young horses, and entries were almost overwhelmingly with high level professional riders vs amateurs (tho there were a few!).

      actually the NEH class entrants were pretty interesting bc there seemed to be an awful lot of young horses in there who were likewise maybe not quite ready for the more accelerated YEH program, but were still being developed in that direction. seems like a good option (too bad it didn't get developed until after charlie's first year lol).

      anyway i think i'm also volunteering at the FEH championships later this year (scribing for conformation, i think) so i'll try to take lots of notes for that too!

    2. I hadn't heard about the NEH classes before, but sounds intriguing. Might be a better option to look into for us. Although we still have a few years to go lol.

      Would love to get your notes on the FEH classes too! There is only one place in our area that's offering FEH, and it's after Central Champs, so we won't be aiming for that. But I've still been trying to read as much about it as possible so I can feel better prepared!

    3. ooh you should definitely look into the NEH program for sure! i think the only requirement is that the horse is in its first year of eventing (thus the "new" event horse lol). seems pretty inviting, and the track was the same as the 4yo YEH track, so basically ~BN.

      good luck with your FEH prep in the meantime tho. it seems like a really cool program and i'm looking forward to learning more about it myself too, even tho it's not likely i'll ever have a youngster like that lol ;)

  3. id love to do YEH/FEH stuff someday - this post was great! so cool you got to scribe. I want to do that eventually..

    1. so when i watched the championships last year, i thought it was kinda fucking crazy and definitely way out of my league. and.... ya know.... that's probably true lol, let's be real.

      this qualifier tho was wayyyyy more inviting. and i guess that's kinda the design of the program that it gradually progresses in technicality throughout the season. it definitely seems like a cool program tho! and yes you should definitely scribe if you get the chance - honestly you can basically do anything you want at any show so long as you sign up early enough ;)

  4. So cool!!! What an interesting day and great exposure to the program.

    My secret (not so secret anymore!) dream is to get a picture jumping a key hole jump like that. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

    1. ooooh i think that's an awesome goal!! i've never jumped one either, tho they had one at the Olde Hope venue we used to go to (before they stopped hosting competitions, sad!) and brita got to jump it a couple times with wick. it definitely looks fun!

  5. Such a cool opportunity to be able to do something like that!

    1. it really was! esp bc in normal eventing we never really get much of a chance to hear judges evaluate jumping style, technique, ideals, etc, in such a formal, consistent manner.

  6. We have YEH classes here but they sound less kind.

    There's the 4/5yo grouped class and 6/7yo grouped class.

    Generally, the horses competing in the 6/7yo class are already doing 1*, so if you are an amateur there isn't much point unless your horse is INCREDIBLY fancy and you ride like a pro as the classes cost upwards of $1K to enter.

    I would love something like the NEH class you described.

    1. yea i mean, honestly i think this program is supposed to be about the same. as far as i can tell, the YEH program really isn't designed for amateurs - it's designed for very well bred horses to be shown off by the professionals that produced them in order to demonstrate their potential to future buyers. almost without exception, these are five figure horses - usually in the mid to high range. and assuming the 5yos finish around ~T height in the championships, it's reasonable to assume they'd be doing P/1* in their 6, maybe 7 year. it's definitely a high octane, accelerated program!!

      tho yea, it's also definitely new here, and still finding its footing in terms of judging and criteria and qualifications etc. the NEH class tho... haha, yea that's definitely where my interests would go should i be interested in showing recognized with another green horse!!

  7. So nice that they were able to accomodate rider concerns about the ditch! I always feel better when I am able to watch some bigger classes go, see the mistakes i make unfolding in the ring and get reminded that we are all human being going out there, challenging ourselves and just enjoying horses. I think I would like to come watch one of these events - maybe Galway has them.

    1. ooh you definitely should!! just based on my (very limited) experience, these classes don't often have many spectators. but for those who ARE interested, you really can get up close and personal with the jumps. tho the judges seemed a little testy if anybody got too close within ear shot as horses were going....

  8. Ahhh that sounds like fun! I’ve never paid attention to YEH or FEH, but it sounds like a fair, though challenging, way to introduce young horses to eventing

    1. eh i'm not sure these YEH classes are designed to introduce horses to eventing. that's what starter level/BN is for. these classes are all about showcasing the well bred future 3* talent (and, ya know, the hopefuls and wannabes) ridden by professionals with the hope they get scooped up by buyers lol

  9. what a great day Emma! how cool you got to do that. I really enjoyed last year's Fair Hill with you and Racheal, sounds like you had better weather too :) HA!

    That course is pretty cool too...glad you had fun!!

    1. it was definitely a lot of fun! and actually i can't decide if the weather was better or worse than when we all went last year haha - it was cold and rainy last year, sure, but super hot with a burning sun this year. i might actually have preferred the rain! but yea that was a lot of fun last year, these are cool classes to watch!

  10. I tried to comment yesterday from my phone but it just kept eating it... but I've been watching that Gandalf horse. He's by Grey Top, same sire as Gentleman, the horse we saw win Bundeschampionat in Germany last fall. He's a really promising sire for eventing, if the mare has enough blood (Grey Top himself is kind of a chunk!).

    1. oh interesting!! i'm like 95% sure i've seen the Gandalf horse before, and thought maybe it was in the 4yos last year at fair hill, but i looked up his record and didn't see that on it, so idk. maybe i've just seen him at normal horse trials?? regardless tho he is LOVELY and was like, ridiculously obviously the winner on this day (tho tim bourke also had some lovelies too!)

  11. So cool to be able to learn all of that - it's really so interesting the difference in looking for an amateur horse vs an upper level horse! I loved riding with both Stephen and Tim this week!


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