Friday, July 17, 2015

Dressage Show, Round 3

open trailer, insert horse
Our area has these really cool schooling dressage shows on Wednesday nights once a month. You literally pay $10/test, do whatever USEA or USDF test you want, and get a score. There are no prizes and it's super informal, but it's fantastic exposure for green horses and nervous riders and HELLOOO SIGN US UP.

Courage had very little show experience up to this year, so I'm pretty much just taking him anywhere a trailer goes from our barn. We signed up for training 1 and 2 this month, mostly on the logic that I didn't want to memorize any more tests.

other horses!
There were definitely things to be happy about--Courage loaded (THREE TIMES, long story) very politely and was fine on and off the trailer. He unloaded like a champ. He was a pro in the warm up.

Honestly, he hasn't been forward lately. I was counting on the whole new place/show atmosphere to spice him up a little, but no. He's a trooper now. Forward is a training problem. I need to fix it.

watching one of his harem show
The last time we did this show, Courage about dumped me and we were lucky to skate through intro b and c. The judge was appropriately harsh about how I never got him forward then, but I was prepared this time.

I was confident in my tests. Courage was on the bit and more forward than he's been all week. The contact was steady, he was reasonably flexible, and he definitely wore his game face in the arena, even if he was a bit looky loo outside it.

so cute
I not only remembered to ride--I was on it. I was like "BEND MORE" and "LEG ON" and "STRETCH IT OUT BITCH" and yeah, he did everything I asked. My circles weren't 100% perfect, but they were probably the best I've ever done them.

We did our tests directly in a row. Training 1 felt good. For training 2, I asked for a little more of everything. Courage responded. He was more forward. Better balanced. More stretchy. Better everything. To me, it felt several points better than our 67% winning ride with the same test at a recognized show.

I told Courage he was a good boy, put him away, and got my tests.

Training 1: 63%

That seemed in range--she's a tough judge and it was a good but not brilliant ride.

Training 2: 58%

I really can't explain.

I can't.

Courage gives 0 shits except maybe a runny one on the trailer
I'm trying hard not to have a meltdown over it because I realize it's just one opinion in a sea of many others. Plus we scored nothing below a 5 or over a 7, so we were consistent. Plus she's a tough judge.

This is the hard part of learning a new discipline--my feel is way off and I don't know how to fix it. I guess there's going to be a lot of video watching (and clinic auditing) in my future as I try to figure this all out.

PS And for those of you saying "there are harder things in T2 than T1, we actually nailed the stretch circle, which is the only new thing.)


  1. I wish my area had shows like that. There are a few schooling hunter shows occasionally and combined tests/ mini trials but not as frequent as these informal dressage nights! Lots of progress for you guys :)

  2. honestly i felt unbelievably sour after getting a score much lower than unanticipated (a 45% measuring faults... ugh). but really it's just part of the process. and these schooling shows sound amazing! what a great way to get mileage, and Courage clearly stepped up at this one!

  3. Well you know I can totally relate! :)

    And that is way cool you can ride a test and get a score for $10!

  4. So good you're getting out! What were her comments on the tests?

  5. Indeed - what Nicku said! What did she say? Was it SM? She is tough. And I've found a few times that what I think I did just didn't come through at all. Sometimes to the good, more often to the bad. Like I could have sworn I deserved better D scores at the last derby we did, and AR agreed, but alas.

    And there was a time I rode a test for GM and then rode it again right afterward - I thought the second test went way better, but he didn't see much change.

    Humph and blah.

  6. Have someone video your rides from A or as close to C as they can get, so you can watch the video and read the judge's comments as you see what they saw. You can take that back to your trainer with a laptop and have a pow-wow so your trainer can explain to you what the judge means if you don't see it yourself (or you both can confirm the judge was bat shit crazy). I started having my rides videoed last year at the recognized shows... holy cow, it was an eye opener. I could see how a test I thought was good, was actually not so good. I found myself trying to give video-me direction ("Come on! Kick him on! MORE!")

  7. That's always the problem with a subjective sport. I think anyone who has done it long enough has experienced the same thing... shoot, I got a 37 and a 28 at shows only two weeks apart with similar rides. All it takes is that judge who thinks everything you do is a 6 instead of a 7 to totally tank your score. I think the better takeaway for you here, instead of the numbers, is the consistency. It's a great sign of progress to see a test with almost all the same (decent) numbers all the way down. Especially with a green horse. Once he's steady and consistent the rest gets better and better. No worries about the score - it's not nearly as important as the rest of it at this point..

  8. For T2 there's also double the trot movements (circle + diagonal vs just circle) so if she didn't like your trot, it could have brought the score down. Ugh that sucks though, you guys have been so awesome lately I can't believe you wouldn't be well into the 60s. Is she an L judge? Are all the other scores kinda low or is it just you guys?

    I really want shows like this around here, it'd be so amazing to torment the baby horse for $10/class!

  9. Well, what do the comments say? That's your explanation. Take a day, lick your wounds, then go reread 'em and try to just take them in.

    You don't have to agree with every one. Or with any, for that matter. It's allowed to say, well, we were working on X and Y and the judge wanted Z and that's just wasn't the ride I was going for that day. It's allowed to say, well, I disagree about the merits of that test and I'm just gonna throw this one in the trash and move on. To some degree, a certain amount of that is essential. It *is* a subjective sport and you aren't gonna please everyone all of the time; the trick is to 1) keep sight of your own path and your own goals and 2) figure out how to integrate scores and opinions and feedback in a way that lets you hear the useful stuff and let go of the rest.

    Easier said than done, I know. But essential. It sounds like there was a ton of good stuff this show, in your ride/attitude and Courage's performance and the tests themselves, which is FANTASTIC. It sounds like there's some stuff to work on yet, which makes sense. Have a tiny meltdown if you need to; there's nothing wrong with that. And then try to find your own balance, eh, with as much focus as you're trying to help Courage find his.

  10. Everyone else has posted great advice. All I can add is - let's go TP her place.

    1. Seconded! I had a judge that completely nailed me to a wall (the test really was that poor, I knew it as I was riding it, I'm not challenging that fact), but instead of constructive criticism and noting my tense unfocused horse, she just had awful things to say that basically amounted to: you don't know what you're doing, go back to the basics. My trainer is a 4* event rider- she said the FEI judges were nicer to her about botched movements than this woman was to me the entire test. I wanted to TP her house!

  11. I second the excellent advice above about having someone video from where the judge sits. I know what I feel and how it looks are usually two separate realities.

    I'm going to throw out a football analogy from the NFL team everyone loves to hate - the Patriots. Do you know what is one characteristic of that franchise? Watching film. They watch film obsessively. On the flight home from away games, Brady is already watching film of next week's opponent. Hey, if it is good enough for 4 Superbowl rings, it's good enough for me.

  12. As you know from my series of posts about Judge McGrumpyPants, I have totally been there. And I also have no feel for this new discipline. We talked about the geometry issue and hopefully there are other concrete things you can improve upon based on the comments. Or this judge just came from the same school as McGrumpyPants and pbbbbtht to both of them.

  13. I wouldn't get too down in the dumps about one test. Because there is some subjectivity (try as the USDF might to get every judge on the same page), there's bound to be some outlier bad tests. If you keep getting similar scores the next time you go (and you should- $10! Awesommme) then start to look for the patterns in the comments. Use the scoresheet as a template to bring the quality of your test up! Think of it as an opportunity :)

    Just think of the poor H/J people who could place last and not get any kind of feedback from the judge as to why!

  14. Next time get video! The dressage peoples can help you make sense of the scores.

  15. Look at it from a driving standpoint. Lower scores = WIN! lol It's backwards, I know... *sigh*

    Just out of curiosity, have you refigured the scores? I had it happen once on one of my tests. What was originally a 73 something turned out to actually be a 53 something. Maybe the adding was a little off that day? It happens.

  16. Hahahaha! THIS!!!!

    I had a judge for a pleasure show- did. not. pin. us. at. all. Nothing we did all day suited her. We were last in every damn class. Placed below a horse that reared in reinsmanship and same horse had harness issues in another class and still beat us.... Hmmmmm??? Her comments, when we got them were rather unproductive. So we licked our wounds and took out our aggressions by kicking serious ass in the games classes!

    The next day she was our dressage judge for the ADT. We went in with and F YOU attitude! F YOU! judge. You didn't like us yesterday so you're probably not going to like us today either. I'm not driving for you, I'm just driving to get my points and move on to cones and hazards- where we will throw down blazing scores, which we did exactly that.

    Our scores under her for dressage? 6's all the way down the page. I will never show under her again.

  17. Someone peed in her Cheerios. But I usually look through the scores and see if the tests I watched were around where I thought they would be. If they are, something I'm feeling doesn't match what I'm seeing. If nothing makes sense, disregard judge as an outlier and give the pony a carrot.

  18. That is the one part about showing you have to just completely forget about! Sure, nice scores are great, but your interpretation of how you rode is and will always be the correct one!! YOU know your horse, the place you both are at and what constitutes progress. Congrats on what sounded like fabulous tests!

  19. I've had this same exact situation. Then I watched the videos and went "oh, that's why" >.<
    But then again I've also had judges who were completely senile and others who were biased against horses of color, so who knows.

  20. I feel you! On three different horses, at the same venue, under the same judge, I rode 2-3 tests per horse one after the other. For all three horses, I felt they all improved. For all three horses, she said each test was better than the previous one. For all three horses, the best score was for the first test and the worst score for the last one.
    I just have no idea.

  21. I understand the challenge- usually after a show I have a good sense of what I need to work on....just because I've ridden H/J forever. But a new discipline? I can see that it would be tough the self evaluate against the scores when the rides felt good! Per the other commenters- hope the judges comments provided some insights! I also wonder- since this seems informal- if you would have the opportunity to chat with the judge after the show and she may be able to give more insight.


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