American Dressage Legends: Edgar Hotz

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Reprinted from April 2019 USDF Connection magazine

Not many dressage judges have been inducted into the Roemer Foundation/USDF Hall of Fame. One of the greats who was so honored was Edgar Hotz (1941-2001), inducted in 2007.

In his induction speech, then USDF president Sam Barish called the German-born Hotz “a giant among US judges.” An FEI “I” (now 4*), AHSA (now US Equestrian) “S,” and Canadian “S” dressage judge, Hotz officiated at Olympic selection trials, FEI World Cup Dressage Finals, Olympic Festivals, FEI North American Young Riders Championships, and CDIs during his 30-year career.

Competitors appreciated what Barish called Hotz’s love for the horse and compassion for the rider, which “gave him a sense of fair play that made him an immensely popular judge and a well-respected horseman.” Hotz was equally respected by fellow judges and prospective judges, many of whom credit Hotz with furthering their own educations.

Committed to judge education and to instilling the highest standards of judging excellence, Hotz was instrumental in creating the renowned USDF L Education Program. As a faculty member and through his participation in other judge-education seminars, he helped to set the standard for many respected judges.

“I learned more from Edgar than any other judge I ever worked with,” said the late “S” judge Joan Humphrey. “He was a demanding, emphatic, and wonderful man. He always gave the horse and rider the same amount of attention at 8:00 a.m. as he did at 5:30 p.m. I don’t know how he did it; he was awesome.”

As an educator, Hotz demanded critical thinking, which made him “the best teacher of judges,” according to Humphrey. “He didn’t let you get by with a ‘just because’ or a ‘that’s what I think.’ You really had to justify what you thought and why you thought it.”

“When Edgar sensed a lack of focus to the judging process or encountered fuzzy arguments, he could get upset,” said his longtime friend and judge colleague Marianne Ludwig, who received a USDF Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. “At the same time, he had a great sense of humor and a genuine fondness for the riders, and much compassion for the many problems that competitors encounter in the show ring. He was quite ready to shrug off mishaps that he considered insignificant; he knew how to reward the essential qualities of a ride. He hated sloppiness in appearance and test performance. He did not suffer fools gladly but loved quick minds’ intelligent retorts.”

A former banker and businessman in his native Germany, Hotz and his wife, Irmtraud, married in 1971 and moved to the US that same year, so that Hotz could spearhead US operations of a company owned by his wife’s family. The Hotzes, both of whom were equestrians, settled in New Jersey on their Dogwood Farm in Lebanon.
Besides his work with the USDF L program, Hotz was a member of the AHSA’s Dressage Committee and Board of Directors, the USDF Judges Council (now Committee), and the German Judges Association.

After Hotz’s death in 2001, dressage judge Axel Steiner, who in 1999 had established a fund at The Dressage Foundation to benefit judge education, suggested that the fund be renamed in Hotz’s memory. Among the beneficiaries of the Edgar Hotz Judges Education Fund is the USDF, which in 2005 received a grant to help launch the now-established Continuing Education in Dressage Judging Program. The Dressage Foundation continues to award grants from the Edgar Hotz fund to USDF group-member organizations (GMOs), USDF regions, and other approved organizations that wish to host continuing-education program modules. The New Jersey-based Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association hosts an annual Edgar Hotz Memorial Judges Roundtable.

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