There have been so many many threads here asking about "what is dressage judged on?" and "why did that rider with her heels up/thumbs down win that test?". I've always remained that in reading the directives of the tests that they state only what the horse should be doing and how the horse should be going. However, we must always keep in mind that it is the rider influencing the horse and therefore the more effective rider on the same horse should score higher if for no reason other than a higher collectives score in the "rider" boxes.
Then there was the development of the dressage equitation rail classes, and now it appears that the USEF has taken this a step further by adding in tests judged purely on the rider.
It will be interesting to see if the judging of these tests is going to encourage a very correctly placed rider on a hollow horse whose way of going is not correct, or a rider with minor equitation flaws but a comfortable looking horse who is ridden effectively. I would hate for these tests to encourage the development of a "dressage equitation" type horse and rider who will not be able to be successful in the "normal" dressage arena.
It is said that the thought is that these tests will encourage riders on less than stellar horses as they will have a better chance of being in the ribbons, but in my experience a good rider on any horse is going to beat out any bad riders, regardless of how flashy the horse is. Plus riding a horse with more or flashier movement is inherently more difficult than riding a smooth or short strided horse and I wonder if this will also be a factor in the new tests.
I think it would be a better test of true equitation and effective riding to run the classes such that there is a pool of horses and riders at each level and the rider must draw a horse to ride that day and be allowed a 30 minute warm up only with the horse prior to the test, on that day. To have the rider on his to her own horse is, in my opinion, still only going to give the ribbons to the same people as the "regular" dressage tests should the equitation tests be rewarding effective riders.