Reprinted from the January/February 2023 issue of USDF Connection.
The USDF L program’s response to pandemic restrictions, “Taste of the L Program” has proven a versatile and popular online educational module
By Marilyn Heath
Did you know that you can enjoy a “Wine Tasting from Home”? Well, now you can experience a “Taste of the USDF L Education Program” from home, as well!
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDF L program faculty and the USDF Judges Committee together created a remote “Taste of the L Program” module that is available to all USDF group-member organizations (GMOs) and other approved groups.
The initial purpose of this initiative was to create a program that could be presented online, since it was not possible to meet in person. But even though live programs are once again taking place, the “Taste” program has remained popular. It is valuable to L graduates as a review and is approved for three hours of L graduate continuing education. It serves as an “appetizer” for those who want to get an overview of the program before they commit, and it is also valuable for licensed dressage judges who are interested in learning what is being taught today to aspiring judges.
Although the L program was created as an introduction to dressage judging for those working toward the USEF “r” license, today the program is not just for prospective judges. The modern L program is divided into two parts. Part 1 (encompassing three weekend sessions called A, B, and C) is intended for a wide group of dressage enthusiasts—riders, trainers, those pursuing a judging career, and, yes, even currently licensed judges who want to further their education. Trainers need to know how judges are taught to judge, how they arrive at the appropriate score, and how they formulate a correct comment that is helpful, accurate, and encouraging. Part 2 is the evaluative part of the program and is held at three separate USEF-licensed/USDF-recognized dressage competitions.
The remote Taste of the L Program is a three-part summary of the sessions in Part 1. Each summary session is one hour in length and is presented in alphabetical order by the L program faculty. It may be taught by three separate faculty members, or one person from the faculty may present all three. The format can be presented on multiple online platforms.Each remote session outlines what is taught in the full L program. In the “Taste of the A Session” we touch on rules, including how to access the USEF rule book and its Equipment and Attire booklet. We briefly discuss the methodology judges use to arrive at consistent scores throughout each class and throughout the show. Then we talk about the biomechanics of the parts of the horse, and discuss how to use that knowledge of biomechanics to evaluate the basics according to the pyramid of dressage training. We finish by explaining the rhythm of each of the three gaits and discussing how the movements in the dressage tests may affect the basics.
“Taste of the B Session” introduces the purpose and criteria of Training through Second Levels. It addresses defining the essence of each movement, the treatment of modifiers, and the formulation of constructive comments. We discuss the movements of Training, First, and Second Levels.The collective marks (gaits, impulsion, submission, and the two rider scores) are the subject of the “Taste of the C Session,” which also includes a discussion of the components of the collectives. There is also a short presentation on judging freestyles, including a overview of how judges evaluate harmony, choreography, degree of difficulty, music, and interpretation.
We invite all USDF GMOs and other groups to host their own “tasting programs.” All approved Taste of the L Programs are listed on the USDF education calendar at usdf.org. For more information about hosting a remote Taste of the L Program, send e-mail to email@example.com.
USEF “S” judge Marilyn Heath, of Naples, Florida, is a longtime USDF L program faculty member and member of the USDF Judges and L Program Committees. She received the USDF Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 in recognition of her contributions to the L program and to promoting excellence in dressage judging.