«First I would like to start by thanking “Dressage.It” for this interview. I believe that it is important that the people involved in the sport know the background of the dressage judges, therefore I really appreciate this opportunity».
These are the first words Frederco Pinetus, 47 years olde from Sintra, in Portugal says even before we start our short interview…
Where do you live?
«I live in Portugal, in the beautiful village of Sintra»
How and when did you meet horses? And where and why dressage?
«I met horses at the age of 6. I saw a road sign saying, “Riding school”, I asked my parents to take me there to have riding lessons and I never stopped since.
At the age of 10 I started riding every day in a very charismatic riding club in Lisbon – Picadeiro Fernando Ralão -, and my entire days were spent at the stables. In those days there were no mobile phones, the TV only had 2 channels, so it was very usual to go to the stables immediately after school and on the weekends from 8am to 8pm. This riding club was located close to Lisbon Jockey Club where was based a dressage rider (Margaretha Lima Garcia) who had beautiful Danish horses competing at high level, and the harmony of those horses dazzled me. Also, in this club the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art used to do their regular trainings, so it was normal to go there, sit on the benches and watch those horses for hours, while dreaming that one day I would like to ride like that.
One day, that lady asked me if I would like to ride her horse, which I did with enormous pride, and this was the beginning of everything.
Dressage, when practiced in accordance with the principles stated in the FEI rules, is the maximum exponent of harmony and symbiosis between the rider and the horse. The lightness, the commitment and understanding between rider and horse is something that fascinates me, more than in any other equestrian discipline».
When did you become a dressage judge?
«I become a national judge in 1998, mainly because I wanted to understand why the judges didn´t award me the points (8) that I thought I deserve 12».
How did your career develop?
As a rider I started competing in Horse-ball (between 13 and 17 years old), I have also tried Jumping, but at age of 17 years old I dedicated myself to Dressage competitions only, first with the support of Margaretha Lima Garcia and D. José de Athayde (former riding master of the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art), and later (2000) under the guidance of a German trainer – Mr. Rick Klaassen –, who assisted me in all levels of competition, including in the World Championships for Young-horses.
I also had students from children classes to small tour (2 of them represented Portugal at Junior (2007 and 2008) and Children (2018) Europeans.
In 2017 I was Chef d `Equipe of all youth classes at the Europeans Championships.
In 2010 I decided to try to organize national dressage shows to introduce some appealing factors to the riders and to the audience, and since then I have organized many nationals and some international dressage shows in Portugal.
Regarding judging, I become a national judge in 1998, international 3* in 2018, Young-Horses judge in 2019 and international 4* in 2021.
But it is worth mentioning that although horses are my passion and part of my daily life (I still ride 1 horse every day), my (real) work is being a lawyer, and due to this background I also help my federation in the topics related to the rules.
Do you have any worries when you are going to start judging a class?
I don´t know if we can call it worries, however, I prepare myself, physically and mentally, in the best possible way. I know the tests by heart, the rules that apply to each class, I always carry with me 2 or 3 extra pens and some blank sheets (just in case) etc.
One thing that sometimes can be a bit disturbing is when we get an unexperienced scriber, or a scriber who doesn´t know enough English or doesn’t know to type fast. In some tests things can happen very fast and if we need to have “one eye on the arena and the other on the scriber”, it is not a pleasant situation.
I know well the work and effort undertaken by the riders to be at a competition, so I always want to ensure that from my side I will be ready and prepared to assess their test to the best of my capabilities.
Horses (riding, judging, organizing, reading, watching…) and, if and when I have time left 12, surf.
Any suggestions to FEI regarding judges?
«Continuous learning and a constructive exchange between the major stakeholders is key.
The online and the digitalization has already proven to be an added value in this regard. The FEI has developed some measures in this field (eg. online assessments, online courses, apps, etc.), and in the last 2 years the International Dressage Officials Club rolled-out on-line seminars/training which have proven to be an excellent way of learning, exchange experiences and harmonize concepts.
I believe that the digital way of learning is just getting started and much more will come, but the virtual set-up will not replace the reality so it is important to find a good balance between both systems, and for sure that the most experienced judges could play an important role in the training and continuous mentoring of the less experienced ones, under a structured and standardized program.
In addition, nowadays judges are subject to high level of scrutiny, therefore the mental training should not be neglected. It would be very interesting if part of the content of the judges education could address topics like tools and methods for training the mind to be able to withstand pressure, build confidence, improve focus, etc. We all have witnessed the benefits of the sport psychology, so why not to use those techniques in a proactive manner and be applicable to judges!
Of course, that it is always easier to give suggestions than to make things happen, but if we all join forces and do our part, many great thinks can happen».