First of all, your first time Dressage scribing probably shouldn’t be a full day of championships… but I did all my homework and practiced a bit so that I would be ready to do my best for the 49 riders in my ring! (Serious apologies to anyone after the first 15 riders. I never knew my hand could actually go numb and stop obeying me like that!)
The day started VERY early with a 4:45AM wake-up call so that I could get to my check-in point at the Kentucky Horse Park by the appointed 6:30AM ride time. Luckily, it was an absolutely gorgeous morning. My judge was right on time, and she was wonderful to work with. She left A LOT of comments (3 – 4 per box a lot of the time!), but it was clear she was doing it because she recognized how hard each competitor worked to get to AECs and wanted them to have some valuable insight.
The great part of all those comments is that I could see some theme reoccurring. Below are the five most common comments she had for competitors doing Novice B:
1. Circles Don’t Have Corners
I think a lot of our riders internalized their trainers warning them to make their circles bit and to stay in the corners… Unfortunately, when you have a circle, there are no corners. Riding deep into the corner when your circle starts at A or C is really obvious and ruins the geometry.
2. Stiff in Transitions
Up or down between any gaits. This comment came up a lot. It was pretty clear a lot of riders spent a lot of time doing the movements, but not necessarily the transitions between those movements. As a result, either the rider or the horse (or both) were weak through the transitions, causing stiffness.
3. Proper Frame
My judge took a minute to discuss the frame she was looking for at this level. Still stretched into the bridle, but horses starting to move a bit more uphill than you would expect from BN. We saw many horse’s either still on their forehand (including a few who forged), ducked behind the contact, or in a frame too tight/high for the level. Being too high/tight for the level didn’t necessarily mean less points, but it did typically mean that the horse’s gaits weren’t as open as they could be.
Curling behind the contact was by far the greater sin, as the judge really wanted to see that horses were seeking the contact.
4. Sitting off Center
My judge was very aware of when riders were positioned off of center, and she called them out on it. She wanted to see riders in the middle of their saddles so that they could be the most efficient.
5. Stretchy, Rhythm, Power from Behind
In the free walk, she was consistently looking for three things: was the horse stretching? Was the rhythm consistent and correct (forward but not running)? And was the horse powering forward from behind?
Many riders had one or two. Rhythm was good and power form behind, but not enough stretch, or good stretch and good power from behind, but the rhythm was quick/rushed. Honestly, just reminding myself of these three things on Friday helped me get a much better free walk out of May. (Honestly, I wanted to find a picture of this one, but I couldn’t find one where the horse wasn’t ducking behind the contact)
Overall, it was a long day, but I really appreciated having such a great judge. She was fair across the board, and we spent a good amount of time talking about the give and take of balancing the accurate/obedient ride vs. the flashy ride at the lower levels.
Luckily, I was done scribing around 2:30PM, so I got some free time! I got to meet Jack and Britt after their great Dressage test! And then I got to walk the Novice/BN XC courses.
I will say, and I might get into this more in another post, I ended up submitting an event evaluation after the event. I think the volunteers and staff did a WONDERFUL job keeping our ring on time and moving. However, I think that the involvement of EEI skewed the whole event in favor of the upper level riders, which in my opinion, is like spitting in the face of the lower levels.