With raw scores in the thousands, sometimes varying by decimal points, equestrian judges’ numerical rulings can be confusing to fans who lack a basic understanding of the National Collegiate Equestrian Association’s rules and regulations.
TCU’s equestrian team competes as one of 23 universities in the NCEA. TCU competes in Division I with the other Big 12 teams as well as local rival SMU.
In NCEA competitions, riders from both schools compete on the same horse hoping to achieve the higher score to win a point for their team.
NCEA judges are held to a strict regulation process and must follow protocol in order to properly record the competition’s rulings. Judges must record all scores in pen with the assistance of up to two steward monitors there to assist with commentary on the performance, according to the NCEA manual.
After the scorecards are collected, the score master must calculate the individual score’s affect on the team’s raw score, and then approve the score submitted by the judge. Scores are not official until the team’s coach signs off on the card.
Individuals receive their own raw score right after the completion of their ride, which goes towards the raw score a team has at the end of the contest. The scores used to declare which team wins depicts the points riders earn when they defeat their opponent’s head-to-head score.
The athletes competing in hunt seat events like equitation on the flat and equitation over fences earn from 0 to 100 points. Judges watch rides and place each of the test’s nine movements on a scale of 1 to 10 based on their execution. Judges then judge a tenth score based on the overall accuracy of the ride.
Hunt seat head coach Logan Fiorentino said that even those without experience evaluating rides on this scale can understand which rides stand out as good performances.
“Good rides hold your attention and make you want to watch more,” Fiorentino said. “They look effortless.”
Western riders performing in horsemanship and reigning contests gain their score based on a starting score of 70. Judges then start adding or subtracting up to 1.5 points based on their performance of their patterns.
Judges focus on a variety of aspects when scoring on their rubrics including the position of the rider, the smoothness of each movement’s transition and the steps taken by the horse, according to the NCEA website.
Athletes strive to earn up to 100 points with this perfect score proving they completed a flawless ride.
Sophomore equitation on the flat athlete Kari Hancock said the best rides are the one where you can see the connection between the athlete and the horse that the athlete controls.
“The feel of the ride is the most natural aspect of the sport,” Hancock said. “A rider has to have that in order to understand what they need to do and what the horse needs to do, which is what is really a special aspect of this sport.”
If athletes riding the same horse earn equal scores, then neither earn the game point for their team. But, their raw score is still added to their team’s overall raw score.
After judges place the athlete’s score on the board, judges have the individual scorecard picked up to be reviewed before the next rider continues on with the competition. Judges receive all of the scorecards back after the event’s conclusion so he or she can select the Most Outstanding Player (MOP).
The athlete who receives the MOP for the event does not have to have received the greatest amount of points from their ride, but should have earned their team a point through their performance.
Fiorentino said the biggest thing athletes can do to prepare for competing head to head is to practice accuracy on multiple horses to create that connection quickly and work through building communication under pressure.
“Perfect practice makes rides perfect,” Fiorentino said.