Wednesday 3 August 2016

Scribing and Tiaras

This past weekend I spent another two days scribing at a Gold rated dressage show.

I scribed for everything from Walk/Trot up to Fourth Level this weekend. I've scribed before, and while I still think it's useful and educational, it's becoming a little more routine and a little less amazing than it was at first. I did still get some useful knowledge out of the weekend though:

1. Some judges care a lot more about turnout than others.

2. My fear of wasps is getting much better.

3. My eye is developing a lot. I can't say I know how to reproduce good riding or training, but I am getting better at knowing good, bad, or great when I see it. A lot of this is thanks to scribing.

4. Movement and talent of the horse does matter.

The Champion prize table for the show - tiaras for all!

Let me take a minute to explain #4:

I'm absolutely a believer that dressage can benefit any horse, and I love that you can find all different types, breeds, sizes and shapes of horses in dressage.

However, after my recent local show, I started to think a lot about obedience vs. movement, potential vs. brokeness. I'm not sure the best words to explain myself, but basically, I found that at the local show, plus some dressage schooling shows, it seemed like a steady obedient packer was the ticket to winning at low levels, regardless of their movement. If your horse walks, trots and canters when they are supposed to, with no resistance, that's often going to get a higher score than a horse with spectacular movement but who spooks at the judge's table and decides they don't want to pick up a certain canter lead that day.

There are some horses who have both good gaits and conformation for dressage, and also a relaxed and obedient mind, but these horses are limited in number and are generally priced accordingly. For the majority of AAs, it seems that we can basically choose one or the other.

It made me question myself in choosing Kachina (I'm not saying Kachina has amazing gaits, but that's more her strength than the relaxation/training is). Are we as adult amateur dressage riders choosing the wrong type of horse? Do we aspire too much to the flashy, hot horses we see at upper levels and pass up the calm steady packers that might do better at the lower levels? I wondered whether me and other adult ammies are wasting our time with horses that we think have the movement and potential for higher (medium) levels, but who we struggle to get to relax enough to do a good training level test.

As these doubts were swirling around my head, it was a perfect time for me to scribe a few competitive training and first level classes at a gold show (during my last time scribing, I didn't get to see any rides lower than 3rd level). The quality of riding and horses here was a lot higher than what I've been competing against in lower shows. It taught me that while of course relaxation and obedience are important, a horse's quality of movement does matter too. Sure, I could trade in Kachina for an old school horse and we might (probably) get better scores right now, but we'd have a separate set of problems to contend with. Scores can't get above a certain point if the quality of movement isn't there.

This doesn't mean in the slightest that Kachina and I are destined for competitive greatness, but I have a renewed confidence in continuing to work on developing Kachina's relaxation, bend, connection etc. so that one day her good gaits and aptitude for impulsion and engagement can shine through.

So Big! So Pink!

These 4 points of knowledge were totally worth the long drives and long days on a hard seat (well 3 of the points at least, the wasp one maybe not so much haha). Going into the off season I know what I need to work on. I also plan to use my improved eye on myself by roping the SO into taking video of my rides semi-regularly. And when the next show rolls around I will double check that my noseband is straight and there are no shavings in Kachina's tail before I enter the ring!

This is probably my last time scribing this year due to my own schedule, but in talking to the organizers I learned that there is a whole page of potential scribes but that my name is near the top as apparently people like me as a scribe. This is pretty cool as I got the impression that if I want the gig again in the future, I can have it. If you have the opportunity to scribe, I highly recommend it!


  1. I have often wondered if I got too much horse for me (I don't actually think that but it is something that has popped into my brain numerous times). Sure I wasn't falling off but I also didn't know how to get him to work correctly. So your #4 really hit home for me. It's pretty hard to dream of the middle levels when you struggle getting your horse to walk.
    That is pretty awesome you are at the top of the list for scribes. I love scribing I just wish I could watch more of the tests. I really want to look into auditing some of the judge training but I'm pretty far away from all of those.

    1. That question of whether a horse is too much or not is a hard one. I think it comes down to whether you're enjoying it. A hot horse is going to be slower to develop the base of the pyramid, but if you're okay taking the time then go for it. It's if you're either scared or frustrated and impatient that it means you don't have a good match (and that doesn't seem to be the case for you!).

      I would love to do a judge clinic someday, but I'm going to wait until I'm closer to having my required second level scores, and that might be a while... haha