4 Questions for Dressage Judge Wayne Quarles

I don’t know about you, but I wonder what is going on in a dressage judges brain during my test.  Of course, the questions running through my head change from show to show but there are several that remain the same. I was able to ask these questions to Wayne Quarles, whom I met at the Area 8 Meeting.

What makes a dressage test stand out to you?

What makes a test stand out for me is the test that is active and regular with the horse and rider both appearing to be enjoying themselves.

We always want the judge to notice us when we are in the ring, we are the only ones in there after all! But more importantly, we want to stand out to the judge even after we have left the arena. When we are truly enjoying ourselves, we think and act differently. The same goes for our horses.  Do you think Valegro would be such an icon if he didn’t like his job? If you don’t enjoy it, then why are you doing it ?!

How can a rider know if they are ready to move up a level?

The rule of thumb that I have used for moving up a level is when my scores are consistently in the upper 60’s or higher and my training at home, for the next level, has gotten easy so that I am starting to work on the level above that.  Example:  When showing 1st level, I would be schooling 2nd level at home and when the score at 1st are consistently high and my wok at home is starting to move to 3rd level, then I would move up to 2nd level in competition.

In our sport, everyone seems to be thinking about moving up and I am always wondering how we know if we ae ready or not. I like to cross compete in that I compete at sanctioned events and schooling dressage shows. I like to try and ride one level higher at the dressage shows than my eventing dressage test is. For example, if I am going to be competing at Novice level in eventing, I am going to compete at Training or First Level at local dressage shows. This way, you are not only schooling one level above at home, but also competing one level above as well. A physiological aspect comes into play as well. If you are doing lengthens and leg yields at the local shows, your change of direction across the middle at events will seem like a piece of cake.

Do you have a judging “pet peeve”? Is there something you really don’t like to see in the ring?

My pet peeve is when riders don’t use the time between the movements to prepare for the next movement.  For example: following a leg yield or shoulder in, not re-balancing and preparing in the corner in order to make your next movement the best possible. 

How far from the traditional style should a rider wander in their clothing?

While Dressage is based on tradition and as a judge I have to follow the Dress Guidelines in the rules, I personally do not have a problem with color or bling.  Color and bling only effect the movements of the test to the extent that you feel confident and good about how you look and therefore present yourself with more aplomb. 

Looking good is half the battle after all!


  1. Mr. Quarles judged the dressage classes at this year’s Medallion show at the World Equestrian Center. He’s very fair and accurate. Really like him.

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