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dressage judges

dressage, dressage judges, horsewomen, winter riding

Pro’s & Con’s of Winter Riding

In the interest of promoting a positive attitude, I’m going to skip over the con’s of winter riding. Chances are, if you live outside of Florida or California, you already know about freezing water troughs, frozen arena footing, and horses slipping on ice. Let’s focus on the pro’s. Are there any?

The boys hang out near the gate, where the snow has been trampled into submission.

The boys hang out near the gate, where the snow has been trampled into submission.


Mari and I had this discussion today as she was cooling out her horse and I was warming Micah up for a lesson. As our breath came out in puffs of steam, I raised the subject. Here’s what we came up with. It’s a short list. A very short list, indeed.

Pro’s of Winter Riding
1. Water hoses slide easily over the snow, so they’re easier to move.
2. You don’t need to fill water troughs as frequently, since horses drink less in the cold.
3. Snow isn’t as messy as mud.
4. No flies!
5. Pasture horses tend to stay close to the gate begging for hay … no long hikes through the field to fetch them.
6. Blanketed horses stay tidier than their summer counterparts.
7. Lazy horses are more forward in cold weather.

I told you it was a short list — and one that’s hard to get enthused about as our fingers and toes go numb. If you have any ideas to contribute, please send them my way. Trying to stay positive as we have record snow here in Central Oregon.

For reasons none of us truly understand, the boys like hanging out in the dry lots during this year's heavy snows. Check out the great mix of breeds!

For reasons none of us truly understand, the boys like hanging out in the dry lots during this year’s heavy snows. Check out the great mix of breeds!

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dressage, dressage competition, dressage judges, judge Kimberlee Barker, scribing

Hanging with the Judge

I spent Sunday scribing at a local schooling show with dressage judge Kimberlee Barker. It was a real pleasure despite the erratic Central Oregon weather, which had rain dousing the score sheets at one point, as wind whistled through our judges’ stand.
I highly recommend learning to scribe and trying to scribe at one show or more show per year. It’s always eye-opening.

View from the judge's stand. We can't hear your heart pounding, but we know it is!

View from the judge’s stand. We can’t hear your heart pounding, but we know it is!


If you’ve never scribed before, it’s relatively easy to organize a scribing clinic. Ask your local dressage club about learning opportunities. Schooling shows are a great way to start.
By sitting with the judge and noting her comments and scores, I guarantee you’ll go home with a few things to work on in your own riding. From our vantage point at C, the most obvious error nearly every Training Level rider made was to overshoot centerline in their entry.
This mistake is easy to fix and can save you a valuable point or two. Practice your turn onto the centerline at home on a regular basis, starting your turn long before you reach A. If you get to A and then begin your turn, it’s too late and you’ll end up having to wobble back toward centerline — which is not a great way to start your test.
Another obvious error we saw were riders who didn’t keep their horses on the rail. Use the rail to your advantage to help to keep your horse straight and forward. Again, this is easy to school at home.
Another glaring error is allowing your horse to counterflex as he gazes longingly out of the arena. Maybe you’re not able to get a really correct bend yet, as your horse is green or you’re new to showing, but do keep your horse’s head–and attention–in the arena.
Finally, remember that part of your job is to convince your horse that the show ring is a safe place. If you are stressed out, your horse will spend most of the ride wondering, “What’s wrong with mom??”
A tense rider does nothing to help a horse relax. If you got score sheet comments like ‘tense’ and ‘tight back,’ it probably referred to both of you.
Unless your horse is a true schoolmaster, he needs you to assure him that everything is fine. When you focus on helping your horse to relax, it may help you to let go of that death grip you’ve got on the reins. You can tactfully encourage your horse to relax or yell “Relax, dammit!” with every step of the ride.
We could clearly see the effect relaxation had on each horse and rider — and their scores — as the show progressed. In nearly every case, the rider’s first ride was tense and tight. By the time they entered the arena the second time, they’d relaxed a bit, remembered to breathe, and got higher scores. Relaxation is huge and easier said than done.
I know from personal experience that show ring stress can turn your brain to mush and your body to steel. (Not a good combination for your poor horse.) My own goal is to try to keep things in perspective: no show is a life or death situation. This is something I do for fun.
Speaking of fun, look at the young riders who blissfully enter the ring without a ton of emotional baggage. They tend to get around the ring in a much more relaxed manner, often earning more points than their adult counterparts.
Try to take on a scribing opportunity this show season to gain a new perspective. You are guaranteed to learn a lot. And, while it is work, it can be quite satisfying as you get to know your judge and anticipate her comments and scores.
Let me know how it works out!

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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.)

IMG_0450

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.”

Continue reading…

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