Overheard at the show this weekend: rider 1 “how was your ride” rider 2 “well I thought it was better but the judge didn’t think so”. I think all of us have either lived this or know someone who has. When I’m asked this either at the show or afterwards, I often think about how to answer it. It can be a real conversation starter if the person who asks really wants to know or it could just be a polite inquiry as a way of saying hello and they don’t want a long answer.
It is easy to fall back on the response that “this ride was better than my last”. The judge is at the show and they may or may not have seen you before but ultimately, they are judging you for the ride they see in the ring on this particular day for these 5 minutes. Saturday I was fortunate to have the same judge for both of my rides. I made a point to watch some of the morning rides to see how the scores were. I thought her scores reflected the rides in front of her but she was not going to be easy and appeared to have high expectations.
My first ride was a PSG ride. I have already qualified for regionals at PSG but wanted to get another ride under my belt. The ride started off well. The trot work was quite nice. The canter work was another story. Winterfair was at times behind my leg and at others too strong in the bridle. In our right canter pirouette she lost the canter, changed leads and I stopped her prior to M to try and regain the right lead so I could do the counter canter and then the change at C. To put it bluntly nothing happened and I received a score of a 3, a 1 and a 4. What a disappointment. I knew when I left the ring that the score would be low; it should be. When I looked over my test, I saw that while the canter work scores were low for most marks, I had received a 7 for my flying changes every 3 strides. I’d also gotten a 7.5 on my transitions into and out of the extended trot. The best score was a 7 for the collected walk. Winterfair should get a 7 or even better on her walk but often times tension creeps in and she doesn’t.
To say I felt trepidation about riding my 4th level freestyle for this judge was an understatement. I did not want a repeat of the score but I did want to try to see if I could make improvements and not leave the impression that that was the best I could do. A few hours later we went back to the ring and had a very different ride. I would say overall this time the judge preferred our canter work over the trot work but we came out of it with a score above 70%. How exhilarating. So certainly, we had both a high and a low.
Sunday went something of the same although the good rides and the bad rides were switched. Do I wish the scores for the most part had been higher? Certainly, but I watched my videos and saw that I could understand why I received the scores I did. In my effort to continue my education I have audited the L program twice. I have even gotten to go onto the more in-depth portions because I am scribing for my coach who is a participant.
Most judges are here to help the riders. I would say that they can also have good days and bad days but I have been fortunate to have received helpful remarks for the most part that are concise and to the point. I have put myself out to be judged and they have done their job. On one memorable day I rode a test that was a real disaster. I had to go into the ring later with the same judge. I will never forget her standing up and saying to me “well why didn’t you show me that earlier”.
We know our horses and our own abilities. The score we receive on a particular test on a particular day is just that; a score filled with commentary designed to help you progress up the levels in a positive fashion. I am going to try and keep this in mind myself.
I hope you enjoy watching the 4th level freestyle I’ve included with this blog. I’m pretty proud of it.