Friday, February 22, 2013

Comments from Judges

One of the (many) things that I love about dressage is the constant learning it involves.  The journey never ends.  You start with basics, at the bottom of the training scale, and move up to more difficult challenges as you gain strength and suppleness.  When you compete at a dressage show, you have other riders in your class and you can win ribbons but, really, you are competing against yourself; trying to improve, to solidify the basics, and move up the training pyramid.  And judges help you.

When you ride your test, it is broken into a number or steps.  For Winston and I there are 13-16 steps in the tests we are riding.  For each step, there is a short explanation of what the judge is looking for (i.e., willing and balanced transition, quality of gait, shape and size of circle).  Next to each movement, the judge gives a numerical score and also a comment about how you can improve that movement.  At the end, there is a space for the judge to write her comments about the overall ride.  Sometimes they just say "nice ride" or "need more bend."  Sometimes they write more.

Peggy Klump was the judge at El Sueno.  She made comments on my test next to each movement and she wrote long comments at the end.  It was very helpful.   Here are some photos Brett took of my first ride, at training level 2, on Saturday.  I tried to match the photo to the judge's comment as much as possible.

 Movement 3 (trot to corner, then go across the diagonal): "wrong bend at K; good straightness on diagonal" Score: 7

 Movement 9 (free walk): "jigged/not ridden to M"  Score: 5

 Movement 11 (20m circle): "steady contact - needs impulsion" score: 6.5

 Movement 12 (trot across diagonal): "unclear bending through corners, drifts left to S" score: 6.5

At the end of the score sheet, the judge wrote me a novel with lots of advice for how I can improve.  The cool thing is that she pointed out the same things I noticed.  Her comments are accurate, fair and motivating.
Capable pair that shows some solid basic connection and obedience.  However, too bad you give away so many chances for great scores with inaccurate or sloppy lines.  Ride precisely, show control and balance using corners to help create self carriage and also show balance and impulsion.  With polish this pair is capable of brilliant performance.
We have lots of homework before the next show.  Lots and lots of homework.  Always. But capable of brilliance?  Made my day!  And I certainly feel motivated to improve.


  1. Very useful comments - and nice to get such encouraging words as well!

  2. Love your analysis of the dressage test as 'steps'. That's what I love about dressage as well. There are definite goals, varying from general to finite, and the tests give you a sort of formula to work with.

  3. "capable of brilliance"
    That's easy on the ears isn't it! ;D

  4. I really like how you paired the comment with the photo. Winston looked great in the free walk despite the jigging mentioned. ;)

    Do you have a standard ring measured and set up at home?

    I feel that this is one of my pitfalls in showing. I like to ride in our big ring which does not have any dressage markers. I guesstimate the size of circles and figures and mostly do my own thing. I usually set up a standard arena about a week before a show, but I know that my measurements are not quite right the markers inevitably get moved/knocked over by other riders. Based on my last couple shows, I think that I have maxed out my ability to wing-it in the ring at First Level. If I decide that I really want to show at Second or beyond, I am going to need a standard arena with markers to practice in all the time. I used to have that and it made a tremendous difference. I am not talking about drilling the tests by the way.

  5. You and Winston make a great pair. Looks like you were at a great facility. Receptive as you are, the judges comments will help you achieve that brillance.

  6. Very nice pictures! And good comments, too. You two look great together.

    I have frequently been beaten by horse/rider pairs who rode the tests more accurately than I did. Even with brilliant movement, if you don't hit the marks you're not going to get a good score. My arena isn't bound by a rail, so I practice riding corners at home by setting up ground poles in the arena to make corners, or riding patterns of square "serpentines" through my arena.

  7. Wow--the comments were strong, but so positive with lots of encouragement for the future of your partnership with Winston. The two of you have come a long way together in a short amount of time.

  8. That is great how they are teaching, not just judging. It all sounds so complicated. You truely have the passion for it.

  9. Those comments can be a blessing and a curse. You are seeing them as learning and that is a blessing. Always so interesting to read what THEY see! That is why I try to video my competitions too, so I can try to learn from them (we don't get comments).

  10. I think you and Winston look great together. I like when a judge gives good accurate comments. They really are helpful. I'm sure there is lots of "brilliance" coming in your next show! Good luck. Oh, and I love your header picture.

  11. Check out that suspension on the last movement! I can't wait to read all about Winston's adventures in the show ring because he is so stinking cute and also very talented!

  12. if you can expand your ring to be full size I really recommend it. After riding for years in small rings I knew I had to make mine full size. I love it.

    that said you can practice deep corners in any size ring. I had a tendency to make shallow corners so in a show Irish would do the same. I started by putting cones so that I had to go deep to go around. it did help.


Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.