Charlotte Dujardin, dressage, dressage judges, dressage training, United States Dressage Federation

Judge’s Remark: Rider, Wise Up!

Dressage judges are just a little too cryptic. I know they’re trying not to discourage novices from the sport entirely, but I’d be o.k. if they were a little more direct.

A comment such as, “Rider should take up tennis” might be a bit too direct.

However, I’ve spent a month trying to decipher this judge’s comment: “Horse needs to be more responsive.” This makes it sounds as if the horse is at fault, so I read this comment to my horse. He sniffed at it and failed to respond.

Actually, Micah is responding exactly as he’s been taught. I’ve taught him that I’ll fiddle-fart around for quite some time, content with a modest response. (I am generally pleased with any horse that doesn’t try to kill me, so one that listens to me most of the time is a pure dream.)

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Rather than remarking “Horse needs to be more responsive,” the judge should have come directly to the point.  “Rider needs to wise up,” would have been appropriate, as would “Use less leg and insist on a prompt response. Use less hand and more seat. You are working way too hard up there, girlfriend.”

Since the judge did not write these things, I’ve had to figure it out on my own. Just last week, while working on My Stupid Legs, I realized how much extra leg movement I’ve been using. My horse is trained! He doesn’t need a big, dramatic cue to go from one gait to another, engage his haunches, or move laterally.

Unfortunately, I’ve re-trained Micah to accept my loud and busy legs. I’ve been shouting at him, without expecting or receiving an equally expressive response.

I hit upon the earth-shattering realization that I barely need to move my legs at all to communicate with Micah! Instead of hauling my inside leg way back and shoving it into his side to ask for a leg yield, I can inch it back a fraction and push with my calf! I can ask for a canter depart with a modest shift of my outside leg.

I’m expecting a call from United States Dressage Federation, based on this finding. Someone needs to let Charlotte Dujardin know, as well!

I admit I feel a bit stupid that it’s taken me so long to figure out something so obvious.  I’m sure I’ve been told to use the lightest aids possible numerous times — but wasn’t able to absorb that information until just the right moment. The less trained horses I’ve ridden in the past, in effect, trained me.

In the meantime, I’m on my own crooked path to quiet legs. Amazingly, my horse is becoming more responsive!