Announcing the Rider Rating System


Rider Rating System


The Rider Rating™ system is a new way to rate, rank and evaluate Dressage riders.  The system is modeled after the Dutch National points system. Rather than focusing only on short-term score performance, the system rewards riders who have proven success over time, up the levels and on more than one horse.

Why do we need a different or new Rating System?  Don’t the USDF Medals show the same thing as CenterlineScores Ratings?

We feel that there are a few problems with using the current USDF Medals program as a measurement of ability for a rider or trainer.   Under the current Medal rules, we feel that the minimum requirements for both score and # of scores is way too low. This is true for all of the medals but especially for the Silver and Gold medals.

This becomes even more problematic when you consider, for example, that the USDF requirements for a Gold Medal open up the very real possibility that a rider could simply lease a Grand Prix-trained horse and then work to get two scores of 60% or better.  This is the anecdotal problem of “buying a medal”.  While we are not suggesting in any way that it is possible to ride a Grand Prix test adequately without any skill or experience whatsoever, the requirement of just two successful outings as a measure of achievement is simply insufficient.  When you combine this with the fact that the Gold Medal (and in many cases just a Bronze or Silver medal) is popularly seen as the only qualification necessary for a rider to “hang out their shingle” as a trainer, you begin to see the problem.

The USDF Medal system is currently the only method that the dressage community has to quickly differentiate rider and trainers, and it is a poor method.  Far too often a Gold Medal does not represent thousands of hours of training and practice and showing.  At best, the Gold Medal means that the recipient was able to complete four rides successfully (hardly the definitive qualification of a top-tier Dressage athlete or instructor).  One of the byproducts of this is that the USDF Medal system does a demonstrably poor job as an indicator to help differentiate the true skill and experience of riders (especially at the upper levels).

After consulting with riders and trainers from both the US and Europe, we have developed the CenterlineScores (CLS) Rider Rating™ system

What’s the story?  What IS the formula for the CLS Ratings?

The CLS Rider Rating system is based on the Dutch National bonus points system.  Like the Dutch system, CLS Rider Ratings translates test scores into points.  Rating Points are awarded based on the non-Freestyle Dressage scores earned in standard tests (Training – Grand Prix levels) at USEF-Recognized shows as follows:

Score Range Rating Points
< 60% 0
60.000% – 64.999% 1
65.000% – 69.999% 2
70.000% + 3

A rider’s rating is based on the points that they earn at different test levels.  Since the CLS Rider Rating system is intended to help differentiate higher level riders, scoring for the system begins at 2nd Level.  Once a rider has earned 10 Rating Points at 2nd Level, they earn the 1* (or 1-star) Rating.  So, for example, this would translate to a minimum # of 4 rides at 70% or better.  Any combination of points over time will earn the rider the specified rating.  Ratings are earned as outlined below:

Rating Requirement
1* 10 points at 2nd Level
2* 1* Rating + 10 points at 3rd Level
3* 2* Rating + 10 points at 4th Level
4* 3* Rating + 10 points at PSG & 10 points at (I1-I2) on at least 2 horses
5* 4* Rating + 20 points at Grand Prix on 2 horses

You will notice that in order to earn a 2* Rating, a rider must not only have 10 points earned at 3rd Level but must also have earned their 1* Rating.  The pre-requisite of proving lower level proficiency ensures that riders have truly “ridden up the levels”.

What are the key distinctive elements of the CenterlineScores Ratings?

  • Raises the minimum requirements for the lower ratings.  The CLS Rider Rating System views Training and First Level as Basic levels of accomplishment and skill.  The first rating in the new system is available only after the rider has shown successfully at 2nd Level.
  • Rewards Moving up the levels.  The existing USEF Test levels are designed to be a progressive system, with movements becoming more difficult as one moves up.  In the CLS Rating system, for example, a rider cannot be awarded a 2-star rating without having first qualified at the 1-star level.  There are a few rare exceptions but for the most part, the new system encourages riders/trainers to work “Up-the-Levels”.  The current medals system does not encourage this gradual progression and in fact, in our opinion, encourages ambitious riders to jump into the FEI ring before they have a solid foundation.
  • The Upper Ratings require evidence of a repeatable process.  For the 4-star and 5-star ratings, the rider must demonstrate the ability to not only ride consistently well at the upper levels, but also the ability to reproduce similar performance on more than one horse.

So what does a CLS Rider Rating mean?

The system was created to give the American Dressage community a more standardized and meaningful way to differentiate the performance and experience of Riders and/or Trainers.  In general, and based on consultation with European and American trainers, we feel that if a rider has earned a specific CLS Rating below 4*, they should be qualified to provide reasonably sound instruction at the levels that are below their current Rating.  So, for example, a 2* rated Rider/Trainer should be able to provide reasonably good instruction for Training through 2nd Level.

The 4* and 5* designations are significantly harder to attain and these riders/trainers should be considered well-rounded, experienced and among the upper level of US dressage talent, performance and experience.

We do understand and agree that oftentimes the skills needed to excel in the show-ring are not necessarily the same skills it takes to train a Dressage horse or train a Dressage rider.  For this reason, we recommend that when looking for a trainer, you assess the total picture for that trainer, taking into account as much information as you can:

  • their CLS Rider Rating,
  • show scores,
  • teaching experience and style,
  • training history,
  • personal recommendations
  • performance of other students, etc.

As with anything, the numbers are only the beginning and you should rely on more than just a number when choosing a trainer for you or your horse.


A Special thanks to Ron Smeets, Kerri Stevens, Jason Canton, Karen Lipp, Ashley Marascalco and the other riders & trainers who helped in the development of the system or provided valuable feedback and suggestions. is the most complete and most accurate source for dressage scoring and show results data for United States Equestrian Federation recognized Dressage Shows. The site has over 1.8 million dressage scores for shows from 1993 on and serves as the premiere destination for Dressage enthusiasts interested in researching scores and show results for Horses, Riders and Trainers.

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