Fat and Skinny Scores

it’s pretty amazing looking out the window while flying across the country on a clear sunny day, like watching a huge topographical map spread out below.? As I was landing in Tucson last week, the landscape below looked perfectly flat, except when it wasn?t.? On the ground, the mountains in a dark backdrop looked like they?d been cut out by worn pinking shears, very jagged and pointed.? I wondered if their origin was volcanic and also what how much acreage of the sparse desert follage was needed per horse. Flying back east, I stopped over in Dallas.? Looking out the window, there was more grass but it was still brown.? When we landed in Lexington, KY, everything was lush green and white four-board fencing, looking like a couple acres could support a dozen horses without needing hay.? All this means a very different approach to horsekeeping, of course. When I lived in California (in a past lifetime, it seems), we bought our hay in Idaho.? When we lived in Pennsylvania, we bought our hay next door, and we kept four horses in a two-acre paddock that still needed to be mowed. I went to Lexington for the annual USEF dressage judge forum.? While we were there, it was announced that the USEF has decided to institute the use of half marks, following the lead of the FEI, which tested them out in 2010 and started using them in international competitions in January.? Canada has also started using half marks. The proponents of half marks have argued that they will give more precise information to the riders and help the judges make a decision when between two numbers.? Those who?ve argued against half marks felt scores overall would go down, while preliminary indications from Europe have shown just the opposite.? Judges have long used phrases like ?fat 6? or ?skinny 7? when discussing a movement but used only whole marks in actual judging, except with freestyles and equitation classes.? Now they will be able to score 6.5 when thinking ?fat 6.?? The delay in instituting the refined system until the new competition year, which starts December 2011, will allow show organizers to update their computer equipment. The judges at the forum seemed eager to use half marks in their discussions, and the idea has been swirling around in my own mind for some time. ?A dressage judge will give between 1,000 and 1,500 numbers and comments (or more) in a typical day of judging, so we have to spit out numbers very quickly and not linger over small details.? If I’m between numbers, it seems that I can say .5 faster than running through the pros and cons of fat and skinny. In the tradition of obsessive DQs, this concept popped into my brain when I stepped onto the scale in the exercise room at the Lexington hotel.? It was a digital scale that gave pounds down to .10.? Talk about precise!? My scale at home gives me pounds to .5, and I thought that was pretty cool compared to the usual dial or counter-weight scales.? Then I started to think:? ?Gee, if it registers .8 and this is a dressage score, would I take it back to a half mark of .5 or round it up to the next whole number’?? Obviously, I’m way over-thinking this.? Good thing that I have several months to practice half marks in my mind before I actually put them on paper Resolution Report:? Another pound gone this week despite being on the road and not riding.? Feels good to be headed in the right direction