French And Irish Judge Alison Marsh Rimaud: How to become a vaulting judge

We are always reporting about the results of vaulting competitions. But, who is deciding this? – All the national and international judges who do great work while spending many weekends of the summer in vaulting arenas. Lately a course to become an international judges took place in France. To train judges is a really important step for every country that wants to develop vaulting. To take a look behind the scenes we talked to Alison Marsh Rimuad, an Irish vaulting fan judging in France.

  1.  Hi, Alison! Thank you for taking the time to show us a little bit of your world behind the judge’s desk. When was your first contact with vaulting? How involved are you today?

I am Alison Marsh Rimaud, I am Irish married to a Frenchman and live in Normandy, France. I am a qualified veterinary assistant. I have traveled and lived abroad since in the 80s and settled in France in 1991. I grew up with horses in Ireland (hunting, cross-country, etc.) but vaulting did not exist. I discovered vaulting when my eldest daughter (I have four children) went to a summer pony camp in 1997 and came back saying she wanted to do vaulting. Luckily, at that time, there was a club 15 minutes away from home. As every team in France has to have an accompanying judge for competitions and as I knew nothing about the sport, I thought it was a good way to learn about it. Since then, I became a national judge and have judged several competitions in France including the French Championships.

  1. On the international stage we always see the same judges. You did the first step to become one. What was the reason for this decision?

There are several reasons that pushed me to become an international judge. The first being promotion of vaulting in Ireland. Slowly, this sport is starting and we are doing everything we can to support the different clubs. Vaulting is a sport that I really like and would like to stay connected with if one day my daughters (Charlotte and Chloé) stop competing. Ireland is a small country, extremely involved with horses, has every other equestrian discipline and therefore judges for each equestrian sport, so it was time to have a vaulting judge!

  1. What are the obstacles to become a judge?

You need time and money to work your way up the ladder. It is only when you get to a high national level that your expenses are paid (at least in France). Competitions are also usually at the weekend, which does not help in your family life, unless everybody is involved. When you have a job, it can also be difficult to get days off to go to a competition.

I think that more and more vaulters are getting involved in judging. For example, Mathias Lang is already an FEI judge, so is Krisztina Bence from Hungary, Rob de Bruin also vaulted and I am sure I am missing some. I think that vaulters will first be judges in their own country therefore we are not aware of. Speaking about new judges, Jacques Ferrari is making the big step as well. Maybe the professional life of the vaulters is a restriction on them becoming judges, who knows?

  1. What do you think about the horse score like it is today? What needs a judge to score the horse (lately we read the opinion that a judge who never has ridden horses can’t judge them)?

What a question. What would be the perfect horse? I think that the horse score sheets as they are today can only be advantageous for a horse that is well trained and adapted to the sport. Since we do not judge only the horse’s canter but also all his other qualities it can help get a higher score. We also judge the horse’s faults so if he has a very good and steady canter but bad behavior, he should not get such a good score.

It certainly helps to know horses and ride to judge a horse but it is not an obligation. I think you can learn how to judge a horse, what you need is a good eye. You need to know what you are looking for and be able to see what is good and bad.

  1. What does it need to be a good judge in your opinion?

The number one thing is to judge what you see on the day once they enter the competition circle. I would add, stay neutral, be fair and keep positive. I think it is important to not just look for faults but more what is good and nice about the program you are judging. Not to be afraid to award what is really good and remain fair when something did not really go so well. Try and put comments on the score sheets is a good way to help the vaulter but also the lunger improve. Maybe having vaulted or ridden could be a plus and I also encourage people to do refreshment courses. We learn so much when all the judges discuss together and share their opinions.

6. How do you see the constant changes in the rules and what does it mean for judging?

I think the constant changes in the rules are due to the fact that vaulting has improved so much over the years and continues to progress that these changes are necessary. It is probably good for judging because it makes us open the rule book and the guidelines each year well ahead of the competitions. Therefore vaulters, horses, lungers and judges all progress together.

I would like to add a final word of encouragement to all the new or little vaulting countries to find someone who wants to become a judge. It would be a great way to keep the coaches and clubs informed on the international vaulting level, even if they only have one vaulter or a small team. It would help start at a national level and build up into international. It is not that scary, I managed to do it. Ireland now has 2 international vaulters, 14 qualified coaches, 5 clubs and me. If Ireland did it, everyone else can.

Thank you, Alison! For all of you who are brave enough to take this step the next courses are coming. One in the process is the FEI 2* judege status course. In March it will take place in Argentina! What great possibility for South America!

Adele Feuerstein

I am Adele Feuerstein the founder of the blog. I used to vault & train teams in Germany. Now I am only an observer & love to share my knowledge about international vaulting with you.