Becoming an
FEI Judge

16 June 2018

How does one begin the path towards being a judge in equestrian sports?

While many of us love riding horses, we know it's unlikely we'll reach the top of equestrian sport through our riding prowess. However, there are many other ways that we can be involved in the sports we love without necessarily sitting on horseback. spoke to Anne Keen, who has been an Eventing FEI judge at one and two-star level for the past eight years...

"It is nice to
be involved
in a team"

Anne works in a team alongside other judges, course designers, organisers, technical delegates, fences judges and vets.

She said: “They all do such a good job, no one works in isolation, we all work as a team.


"Everyone has their strengths and we can all communicate swiftly while riders are out there on the cross-country course.” 


The fairness of the competition is hugely important to everyone involved. It’s part of the officials’ job to ensure the sport is run safely and fairly.


Anne said: “This is very important, everyone should compete on a level playing field. FEI competitions are fair for everyone, the way events are organised, for example, sticking to times given in all three phases.”


Anne is passionate about horse welfare, dangerous riding, abuse of horses or tired horses.


She said: “From the rider’s point of view, they can get caught up in the heat of the moment, they want to do well and be competitive.”


Anne qualified as an FEI judge at a three-day course at Luhmuhlen CIC three star, eight years ago. The course leaders were Badminton director Hugh Thomas, course designer Giuseppe della Chiesa and senior FEI Dressage and Eventing judge, Christophe Hess.


The courses are subsidised by national governing bodies, in Anne’s case, British Eventing.


Anne said: “There were about 40 of us; candidates were new people like me and more senior, experienced officials who were updating their skills.


"It was a good mix and I learnt so much from everyone on the course. We have to know the rules inside, out.”


New challenges are something Anne is always keen to take on; updating her knowledge with like-minded people is part of the appeal of becoming an official.


“During part of the course you have to judge a Dressage test out loud on the microphone to the group," she said. "It is compared to the master judge, in this case, Christophe and if you are more than one mark out you discuss it.


"We discuss a variety of cross country video clips and on cross country day be out on the course win the same groups learning from how the riders tackled the fences.”


Every three years, all officials undertake a refresher course, to maintain their qualification. Anne attended a course at Hartpury College where it was suggested she should apply as a three and four-star eventing judge. Anne passed the next course and is now gaining experience, shadowing judges and on ground juries.


In her role as an FEI judge, Anne has been privileged enough to travel to some impressive locations.


“When we went to Houghton Horse Trials we had a guided tour around the Royal Stud, by the stud manager at nearby Sandringham," she said.


"We are volunteers who do not get paid, but we are looked after well. I love the social aspect; the hospitality is amazing.


“I also enjoy the trot up, the tradition, the effort, the protocol. Horses and riders look their best. You see horses from the start and get to know them and their riders over the three or four days and follow their progress. Not just in that competition, but up the levels.


"It is nice to be involved, working in a team. Always learning and reflecting, you have to have a calm disposition.”


Anne would encourage more people to work towards qualifying as an FEI judge.

You do have to be experienced in judging Dressage first. In the UK, you need to be at least a List four British Dressage judge to train at one and two-star level and at least a list 3A judge for three star and four star.   


Anne said: “If you have the time, the training is fascinating, the courses are extremely well run, you meet some great new friends. Taking responsibility, making decisions and being flexible are all part of the job.”  


Visit FEI Campus to discover an array of free online courses about equestrian sports, FEI rules and regulations and horsemanship...


Text by Katie Roebuck

Images by Eric Knoll / Christophe Tanière / Liz Gregg


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