New dressage tests: what think we of the Harmony score?

So, since the new collective mark has been changed to simply “harmony” (combining the other collective marks), I’m curious as to what everyone’s experiences have been.

Have you been pleasantly surprised? Disappointed? Perplexed? In your opinion, has it been accurate and fair? Has it reflected how you thought the test went?

I have had a reaaaally slow start this year, and have only been to one competition (I have my first recognized this weekend at Middleburg); I did a Starter Trial in May, where the dressage judge LOVED and gushed over my horse, gave me a ridiculously generous score (26) for a mediocre test, and gifted us with an 8 on harmony. :face_with_raised_eyebrow: (Obviously I’ll take it! Thank you!, but ummm. No.)

This makes me think that “liking the horse” (or not liking the horse) may have an unfair impact on this score - without being able to award different scores for all the specific collectives, the overall impression may weigh more heavily?



Good luck this weekend at Middleburg!!

I see the underlying issue they were trying to fix with this change. I have to do more outings before I have an opinion; I’ve only done one so far and received a 6.5 – ouch!

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Yes - I think one needs to have multiple outings in order to arrive at a consensus (I have two more HTs this summer, so that should tell me more), but my one concern was that it may be more subjective than the 4 separate categories.


It might be more subjective - from an outsider standpoint it does read as ‘overall presentation’ which is subjective-based.

I historically have ridden not-great movers, so I appreciate the movement (no pun intended) away from Gaits being such a factor - but I also made up points in the collectives in Submission and Rider… so we’ll see.


Canada hasn’t followed suit yet on these tests but I love the idea. Harmony IS important, very very important and so if the harmony is good it should be rewarded and thus those with good harmony will be above the others. JMO

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I have seen some strange marks for Harmony given the rest of the scores for movements in the tests (both for myself and others).

For example, if the movements in the test score a mix of 7.5’s, 7’s and a couple 6.5’s, it seems off to have the harmony score be 6.5 (happened to me this past weekend). Another example I’ve seen is pretty mediocre scores at the beginning & middle of a test, but a better ending and then the harmony score was a 7.5.

Of course it depends on the judge, but I’m not sure the Harmony mark is better than splitting out the categories of Gaits/Impulsion/Submission/Rider.

ETA: you can see individual movement scores on the Live Scoring if you hover over the dressage score.


I could see this happening if the test was overall a 6.5 on the harmony but there were some other nicer movements in the test.

A bit like “class” or “quality”, “harmony” is something one can generally recognize when one sees it. Watch enough people riding and it is possible to identify people and horse working together with more or less harmony. An individual movement might be good enough in shape, tempo, balance etc but rider and horse are not fluent in their communication.

But nothing about judging dressage is easy!


Agree! In principle, though @Carried_Away’s experiences were interesting.

One of the interesting things about watching eventing dressage is the range of skill levels. The top event riders now have the harmony and fluidity of good “pure” dressage, others, however, do the shapes but the ride looks like they are pushing a lawnmower around.


“Pushing a lawnmower around” :laughing:

I agree about the top event riders; they are indistinguishable from the top dressage riders - 'twas not always the case, but the quality of the riding has improved in leaps and bounds.


Arguably the quality of the FEI level dressage riders has sharply declined in the last 20 years with the emphasis so much on gaits now. I regularly attend one of the largest venues to spectate and see major disobediences, riders behind the vertical, horses behind the vertical, rough riding and the absence of true collected movements like piaffe all of which are overlooked in favor of a big flashy trot.


From this side of the Atlantic, I have a slightly different perspective. In the UK, Dressage is now hugely more popular than 20 years ago and far more people are doing it so the opportunities for seeing poor riding have certainly increased. However, the quality of dressage riding has improved because the judges are better trained and more experienced, the trainers have better skills and knowledge and the riders have a better understanding of what they are trying to achieve. It is a bit of a virtuous circle: as the judging and training has improved the riding has improved, so the level of training and judging has improved. Who would have ever thought in 2000 that TeamGB would have Olympic medals in Dressage?!? Oh, that I had had access to the quality of training now available when I was a youngster.

While there are lots of WBs to be seen, it is also a characteristic of dressage here in the UK that other breeds are also competing very sucessfully, including Section D Welsh and gypsy cobs. The flashy trot is no longer enough to win as good training is recognized. A gypsy cob in full feather doing an extended trot or a piaffe is a sight to behold. The WB trot also isn’t much use in Eventing if the horse can’t gallop xc.

My personal theory is that the US needs to up dressage judges training, or increase the number of trained judges, to improve standards overall. A good eye will not be distracted by the flashy trot as it will be looking for signs of correct training.


Eventing dressage has improved by milesssssssss over the last few decades. The quality is so much higher than it has ever been.


I can think of no other way that emphasizes this other than to point out in the early 2000s I could win a class on a 37.5 dressage score. Now a 37.5 places me solidly at the back of the pack unless all competitors are having uniquely bad days… or the judge.


I agree that is true in the UK that barely had a dressage scene 20-30 years ago. And yes eventing dressage has improved a lot. But overall the quality of FEI (as I said) riders and the training of FEI horses has not, especially the quality of the collected work at the higher levels has gone downhill in favor of big wow! movers. So. Much. Bad. Piaffe. So many horses unsteady in the transitions. I saw a stallion get the high 70s for a GP test recently where he did not do piaffe at all just sort of lifted some feet out of order while shuffling forward. ridiculous.

Valegro/ Charlotte/ Carl and the UK team in general have been actually a nice contrast to that trend.


I would love to get back OT, but would also like to hear from people who do straight dressage on how they feel about the new collective mark. Better? Worse? Your experiences?

I was thinking about cross posting this on the dressage forum.

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I fully admit to being a dinosaur, but I miss the old collective marks. I really like the idea of “harmony”, but lets face it we all have an occasional “non-harmonious” day and sometimes a well-earned 7 and “tactful, well-ridden” for Rider was the bright spot in an otherwise disastrous test. I think harmony is a better replacement for “submission”. I dont have fancy movers, but I never felt penalized by a Gaits score; actually I felt it gave judges a way to reward the best movers without inflating every movement’s score.

It’s not a hill I’ll die on, but I’m not sure the change to 1 collective mark helps all ships, so to speak.


I’m indifferent. In this area, we have several judges who rarely deviate from 6/6.5 on the collectives no matter what you do and I can’t see this changing with the new single collective.

I also do WD and WDAA has harmony as part of theirs and I always score well there but my WD is broker than broke, cute, and we’ve been partners for 12 years so I think it accurately reflects our rides and we benefit from it.

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Seems to be the “PC” score.

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