As I think everyone is aware, this weekend marked May and I’s first horse trial since Spring Bay in May… and our first recognized BN horse trial since Kent the Spring of 2016.

I was hoping to have a fairly competitive test, but I knew I would be in good company. This horse trial is set up in teams, so all the divisions are open divisions. That meant that May and I would be competing with everyone from professionals on young, fancy prospects to kids on been there done that school ponies. Given that, again, we hadn’t been out at this level in FOREVER, I really had no expectations.


As a result, I set my goals on the things I could control. I wanted to ride a forward test. I wanted a free walk that had some good swing but without pushing May so much that she jiggs. And, biggest goal at all, I wanted two NICE canter transitions. Those movements have given us some grief in the past.

Overall, I think we really accomplished that. The only part I was a bit unhappy about was the last few movements of our test. She got tense in the walk work and kept asking to trot, and I got a bit handsy into the transition. The rest of that trot line wasn’t great, so we fought a bit into a mediocre halt (which somehow got one of our higher scores).

So… let’s go through the movements, scores, and comments.

  1. Enter Working Trot. Track Right. Forward and Straight 7.0
  2. Circle Right 20m, Working Trot. More Inside Flexion 6.5
  3. Half Circle Right 20m. Working Canter Right Lead. Prompt 6.5
  4. Circle Right 20m Working Canter. Steady Tempo & Connection 6.5
  5. Working Trot. Forward transition 6.5
  6. Change Rein. Working Trot. Increased Tempo. 6.0
  7. Circle Left 20m Working Trot. Fairly Supple Circle 7.0
  8. Half Circle Left 20m. Working Canter. Prompt. 7.0
  9. Circle Left 20m Working Canter. Haunches in on Circle 6.0
  10. Working Trot. Forward Transition. 6.5
  11. Medium Walk. Needs Energy in Walk 6.0
  12. Change Rein. Free Walk. Good Stretch. More overstep. 6.5
  13. Develop Medium Walk. Could March more in Walk 6.0
  14. Working Trot Forward transition 6.5
  15. Down Centerline More Bend in Turn 6.5
  16. Halt Through Walk. Solute. Almost Straight 7.0

Collective Marks… all 6.5. Suppleness and straightness are underlined. Could be rounder through top-line at times and show bend more. Seems like a happy partnership. 

Here’s the full video.

Now let’s talk about this, because I have some feelings.

img_3191-1For movements 3 – 5, I got positive comments and an ok score. To me, this is so incredibly unhelpful. The comment “forward transition” shows up three times on the test, all with 6.5 scores. If you are giving me the 6.5, PLEASE give me an idea of WHY that wasn’t a higher score. Both canter transitions have the same comment but different scores. why?

The more overstep comment in the free walk makes me laugh a bit. She is a long horse with short legs. ANY overstep is a big deal for her, but I get it, it’s not exactly what the judge wants to see.


Now after sitting and scribing in a judges booth all day, I know that sometimes nuances can be lost in translation, but that is why the judge has the section at the bottom to write their own comments. More bend? Got it. You’re right. She got a bit stiff on me to the right for sure. More Round? This is BN. My horse is forward into the contact with her nose at the vertical or slightly in front of it. In my opinion, that is an appropriate frame for the level, but you all let me know what you think!

Luckily, I had set goals outside of a number for this show, and I think we accomplished them. May was forward thinking through the whole test. The free walk showed the horse really coming over her topline in a relaxed fashion, while pushing from behind. AND The canter transitions were MUCH better then they had been. Overall, super happy in the progress I am seeing in her work.

We ended up with a 35 which stuck us in 11th out of 25, so firmly in the middle of the pack heading into Show Jumping!

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. the_everything_pony

    I got the overstep comment for Amber when I showed those too. Like, she’s a QH, you can tell just looking at her, so no she isn’t going to have much overstep. After watching your test I find that odd as well. I thought your transitions looked really nice, as did the whole test, really, so I’m not sure, either. But, in terms of you accomplishing what you set out to do, I think you did it!

    1. Emily

      Thanks! Like… May will never walk like a warmblood, so in that context, yes, she totally needs more overstep. Oh well, On to the next!

  2. martidoll123

    Where i know that we have ‘breeds’ that aren’t popular with some judges i feel her (this judge) scoring gauge to be clearly off the wtf rack. I mean prompt canter transition is a 6.5 ?? And then the other way?? Half Circle Left 20m. Working Canter. Prompt. 7.0 Umm….if they both were prompt why are they different scores as you say?

    That lady had her high bar at 7 and wasn’t going over it for you for nothing. I get that the end of the test May was a bit tense but she looks very good in a lot of it that got 6s and 6.5?? I guess we should be glad she didn’t ding her prompt deparature a 5?? SIgh. This is why I hate showing sometimes. Anyway i can see clear improvments across the board. Yay to you and May!!

    Write her name down and don’t even bother showing under her again.

    1. Emily

      Yeah I wish dressage wasn’t so subjective but that’s the game we play… or at least, those of us that can’t afford and/or don’t want a big moving warmblood hahaha

  3. Stacie Seidman

    I can’t comment on the scoring since I know nothing about dressage other than the basics! But it sounds like May was a good girl for you! Can’t wait to read the rest!

    1. Emily

      She was awesome, and let’s be honest, that is all that really matters. <3

  4. eventerinprogress

    Unfortunately they’re not allowed to make accommodations for breeds, you just have to show them as much of what they want as you can within the scope of the horse you’re on.

    I thought she looked great, and it is annoying when you get comments which don’t actually help you improve where you lost marks. Perhaps when they meant “more round” they didn’t mean head/neck position but rounder over the back too? Then again is that asking too much of the level? (Not too sure on expectations of the American levels)

  5. Congrats: 11th out of 25 is actually pretty awesome. Especially given you were competing against pros. I cheated and checked on StartBox scoring and 3 of the people above you in the final placings are pros. I really dislike open divisions because of this. Especially at the lower levels where pros can be upper level riders taking a young horse or a client horse through. It’s tough to compete against someone who is regularly riding at the international level when all you’ve ever done is BN. (I might be a bit bitter about this as it happens to me a lot).

    1. Emily

      I’m glad someone checked! Hahaha you rock! This show had to be all open divisions because everyone is competing in teams of 3 or 4, so it’s a bit insane! It definitely was a super competitive division though with a ton of fancy and seasoned horses and riders.

      Like no matter how well I ride, May will never be a 17.0 hand, imported warmblood ?

  6. roamingridersite

    Middle of the pack in a big open division sounds like a pretty big win to me. Plus May looks happy to be doing her thing and you accomplished your personal goals so a big congrats!

    1. Emily

      For sure! I was super proud of my little horse. ?

  7. KC Scott

    I definitely take dressage scores with a grain of salt- I’ve won on a 40 ( 40 was the lowest score of the whole division), and I’ve been in 11th or something like that on a 31. It’s one reason why I could never just do straight dressage- way too subjective. And it seems some judges truly want to give helpful advice to riders, and some just say the same thing over and over, whether it truly applies or not. As long as you’re happy with how your test went, that’s what matters!

    1. Emily

      For sure! My complaint wasn’t so much with the scores. Like if I watched every round, we probably should have been in the middle of the pack. I just wish some judges were more thoughtful/helpful with their comments.

      I totally agree with the whole “couldn’t do regular dressage” thing. Like I *like* Dressage a lot, but I wouldn’t want my entire show weekend to be determined by the opinion of someone in a booth.

      1. KC Scott

        Ugh, I know- it’s like, tell me I need bend once or twice, then move on to a different piece of advice, please! My barn owner is just starting into straight dressage and bless her, I couldn’t do it. She’s so concerned with numbers, I’d be having a meltdown!

        1. Emily

          Eventing dressage is also tough because it’s like… what are they even looking for at each level? My horse was on the bit and tracking up from behind… but this judge wanted her in a higher level frame? But another judge might think that frame is inappropraite…. who knows?!

  8. L. Williams

    Congrats on having the seriously best goal “things you can control!” and it looks like you got great score. As far as the judges comments ehh, I think on the rounder bit (and I’m H/J who did dressage a LONG TIME AGO) it has more to do with the horse’s back versus the shape of the neck and where the hourse is. But again Rounder is such a shitty way to phrase IMO and tells the ride absolutely nothing. That’s one of those wordscape/brainscape problems though.

    1. Emily

      Hahaha for sure. It was more like… ok I got a 6.5 on a “prompt” transition. Then a 7.0 on a “prompt” transition… sssoooo what was the difference? Dressage is still such a mystery to me ?

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