Wednesday, June 8, 2016

REC Dressage Schooling Show

For once I'm not going to name the venue this show was at. The equestrian world is a small and whiny space, and I'm going to be fairly small and whiny in my assessment of my experience. I also don't have any media from this show since it was a Saturday and Hubby couldn't come.

You already know that I had a bad experience with the judge, but honestly the whole show was a let down. I volunteered at the first show in our GMO's series, and it was well organized, well run, and well attended.

This show...was not so much any of the above. I think they got quite a good crowd for the lower of the lower levels (Intro, Training, and First), but there were only a few other Second riders with me and one Third rider.

filler pics!

I waited patiently for an email that contained ride times, and when that never came, I religiously checked WNYDA's page up until Friday--the show was on a Saturday. I ended up hounding the organizer/secretary to get my ride times and finally got her to cave and email them to me directly late Friday morning after she insisted they were posted on the farm's facebook page. (I never did see them posted there.) I had a friend who was also there competing, and she didn't get her times until nine that evening.

The barn was easy to find, but when I got there, there was no direction on where to park which admittedly is pretty hit or miss at any show. I crept past a few trailers and finally angled into a spot in the field behind the barn, figuring someone could come and tell me to move if I wasn't in the right area.

I got out, opened Bobby's door so he could scope out the scenery without screaming and pawing because he felt like he was locked in the trailer, and went to find someone to check in with. After wandering around a bit, I finally just asked someone in the barn where to go. "Oh, there's no check in--or numbers! Just go in and do your test."

Ohhhkay. I guess I can do that.

we played outside all week after this show.

Since I'd gotten there early, I went down to the ring and talked with my friend A for a bit to see how her tests had gone. She'd scored a 60% and a 67% for Intro A and B which she was happy with, but then she started telling me about the comments the judge had marked on her test. For Intro, this judge was wanting the mare to sit more. She also told A that the mare's neck was being carried much too low. A was riding a draft mare. Her neck must have been put on upside down to get that comment. We laughed it off and chalked it up to schooling show judges, and I went to get on Bobby to warm up.

There was no ring steward at either the warm up (in the indoor at the top of the hill) or the competition ring, so I kept an eye out from the indoor and waited until most of the people milling around had dispersed, figuring a thinning crowd meant my ride time was near.

Bobby was steady and obedient warming up. We ran through a couple of the movements from the test--shoulder-in, travers, a couple medium trots--and timed our walk down to the ring just as the rider before me was leaving and the rain started coming down.

bobby was soft and fluffy the whole time, happy to be back in jump tack.


As we entered at A, I realized C was a good three feet to the left of the center line, so I sort of crossed my fingers and kept riding straight at the judge and hoped that I wasn't going to get some weird penalty for not being straight. Fortunately that seemed to be the right thing to do, and we got a whopping 6 for our first halt. Straight entry, needs more uphill balance.

The first medium was forward, but it was forward in a flailing, legs going everywhere way. Bobby's not  naturally a particularly fancy horse, and he's got pretty shitty conformation, but he can wing his legs out there in a sort of flashy manner when he gets trucking. The problem is that his answer to everything he doesn't understand is tension, and that obviously messes up the quality of the movement.

I schooled him long and hard over the medium trot the day before because he'd stopped giving me any effort at all for awhile. Mr Tappy came out, there was much snorting and sweating and swearing, but in the end he remembered what my leg was for and was going.

During the test, he moved right off when asked, but it wasn't relaxed, and very quickly the big trot started coming apart at the seams. The legs were still being flung out a mile in front of him, but he was getting long, downhill, and pulling the reins out of my hands. Flashy to the untrained eye, but not a whole lot of fun to sit and any judge was going to see right through it.

Things all apparently went downhill from there, and I wonder it that first trot made a bad impression and the judge just decided there was going to be no coming back from it...even if the movement was okay. (Shoulder-in right: Good connection to outside rein. 5.)

Bobby was bad in the simple changes. I cued for the walk too hard and he actually came to a halt instead. I panicked and legged him on, hoping he'd just go into the canter instead since he immediately halted and started swinging sideways. He was extremely offended by my unclear aids and pulled a classic Bobby, flying halfway across the ring before going forward sideways at some sort of tranter before finally getting back to the canter at A. I rode the second change better, but he anticipated doom and disaster and other Bobby things, so he went ahead and flailed around quite a bit more.

Overall we got such constructive comments as: crawling, absolutely not uphill, establishing resistance instead of connection, etc. Her end comment was "This level requires far more uphill balance than anything you've shown. Go back to basics before you come back to this level." The highest score on the test was a 6.5 for rider position.

Obviously I didn't know anything she'd written when I left the ring, and while I knew we were going to be marked down severely for the complete lack of simple changes and ensuing tension in the canter work, I thought everything else was steady enough. Nothing exciting, but nothing to be ashamed of.

I jumped off and stood in the pouring rain ringside for half an hour until my next test as Bobby gets pissed when he goes back to the trailer and thinks he's done, but then he has to come back and do more dressage. Since there was no ring steward and the times weren't posted, I didn't really know how many riders were in front of me, so I got back on when there was one rider finishing her test and no one else was around. Two other people ended up coming down though, so I walked Bobby around the field and let him eat grass to try to alleviate any Bobby anger.


We got an impressive four 6s on this test! The first halt (straight entry), the first turn on the haunches (maintained rhythm), the walk to canter transition (obedient), and the collected trot transition before turning down centerline (needs to come through). We also got sixes down the board for collective marks except for another 6.5 for rider position.

Bobby was once again a tool for the simple changes, though there was slightly less flailing on this test. The problem once again was with the canter throughout. He was fine picking up the canter, but the second I asked him to open up his stride for the medium, he was like, "OK BAI GO FUCK YOURSELF BAD THINGS HAPPEN IN CANTER."

He was so, sooo tense and locked up that I rode the world's most conservative counter canter serpentines to try to mitigate a full blown Bobby melt down. It was during this movement that I could hear the judge laughing as I looped around the ring.

When I got done with the test, she called me over. "Do you know what a serpentine looks like? Do you know how to ride that movement?"

I told her yes, I did, but I was trying to control my tense horse to keep him from performing the same theatrics he was showing in the changes.

"Do you know what that movement is supposed to ride like?" She whipped out a diagram and held it up to me. "Three equal loops, right? You were practically on a diagonal, and honestly your horse is a saint for even allowing you to do that. I don't know how he held the lead."

I nodded, thanked her for her time, and left the ring.


Maybe I'm just a big fucking child, but I was upset when I got back to my trailer. I shoved all the cookies down Bobby's throat to make myself feel better, and because I really did--and still do--think that for our first time out at Second, minus the dramatics in the canter, we did fine.

I understand that the judge can only score us on what she sees that day, and what she saw was a horse that couldn't do simple changes and who got very tense and locked up during the canter. BUT I'M STILL GOING TO WHINE BECAUSE THIS IS MY BLOG AND I CAN.

I picked up my tests quickly since I was the last ride of the day, and almost threw them away when I saw the scores. 49.74% for 2-2 and 51.59% for 2-3.

I wasn't the only one competing at this level, and with those scores I WON both tests.


Which is just LOL, right?

I didn't even open the tests all weekend, and when I handed them to BM to look over she was like, "Well....I mean....I wish I could say there's some good stuff to pull out of here to use, but.... Seriously though, how much collection does she want to see at this level?!"

So there is my very bad, no good, much whining, woe is me show post. I'm glad my next show went better because the whole two weeks after I pouted and told everyone I was only going to trail ride for the rest of my life because clearly I SUCK as a rider.

And yes. Everyone did tell me to shut up and get over myself. I have good friends who don't put up with such nonsense.


  1. That sounds like bad judging to me! And if you won the class on those scores and that feedback, I would be shocked if you weren't the only person who was unhappy with the judge.

  2. At least she scored everyone harshly? LOL You win some and you lose some... whatever. F that judge.

  3. I'd be terrified to see the other riders' scores considering you won with a 49%! That judge and her behavior are appalling. Additionally, how do you run a show with no stewards, no show office, and no numbers?! That is totally insane! I would absolutely, DEFINITELY complain to the show organizers and your GMO!!

  4. The last show I went to had a pretty harsh judge like that too who chastised me for sitting the trot. She also gave some of the absolute weirdest marks and comments on my test and a couple of other people's tests. Sometimes I feel like these judges don't even -care- and just fling out numbers.

  5. EW. That's all I have to say about THAT judge.

  6. Um, I wouldv'e been super upset with that judge, I don't think you're being a unreasonable. That is ridiculous and unacceptable. I would definitely complain to the show organizers and never ride with that judge again. Ever. (or probably at that show again because organization?? It's not that hard). At least you weren't the only one getting scored harshly, but holy cow.

  7. I would love to PM you the details on the only Dressage L judge I know. It is.... interesting. And entertaining, in a really sad, sad way. It might make you feel better about L judges in general, or this one in particular. Or could just distract you from how much the horse world sucks sometimes.

    1. Feel free to email me or add me on fb if you're on there! I love sharing judge horror stories.

  8. Don't feel bad! The evil clinician told me I don't know what a serpentine is or how to ride a simple change. I think at some point theses judges get so old and bitter they have to take it out on us.

  9. That show experience sounds highly unpleasant. Ride times are what my dressage friends all brag about, they would be pissed about that lack of organization.

    It sucks you don't have video from the show to remind yourself that it went better than the judges comments show.

  10. Ok, we need to connect outside of here because I want to know the judge's name. I got a 48% on my very first second level test where I was managing a melt down the entire test in a jump saddle, and all I got at the end of the test was, "Do you know how to ride a simple change? Go read the rulebook." I really think we've ridden for the same judge!

    I think that day there were 3 scores above 60%. A friend had her horse stop, rear, spin on a training level diagonal before getting the mare to carry on. Not one comment for the whole thing.

    Complain to your GMO about the entire show- schooling shows near me usually don't have stewards, but we at least have numbers and a schedule. I don't think complaining to the organizers will help in this case.

    1. Solid advice here.

      I can't believe that she asked you if you even know what a serpentine looks like. Wtf. MOST people ride that damn second level serpentine as diagonals. I can personally attest that if you manage to ride it as an actual serpentine, the judge will be (should be? Jesus...) so impressed that you get an outstanding score. Because that's one of the harder movements at that level, and difficult for a lot of horses.

      W. T. F.

      Hope you had a good margarita and a whole load of wtf cookies (aka, bricks of chocolate).

  11. If you got first place with those scores then the judge is just way too harsh all around. Also, ride times are like the only good thing about dressage. What dressage show doesn't have ride times. And the lack of steward and directions would probably just fry my brain. I don't even think I could have managed it as disorganize lines are one of my biggest pet peeves.

  12. Wow, that's really shitty. I'm pretty sure I'd come unglued if a judge laughed at me and then proceeded to speak to me like that. Kudos to you for keeping it together!

  13. Dude. All I could think while I read what the Judge wrote/said/did was "biiiiiiiiitch. Massively condescending biotch." Yuck. Laughing while you rode and then calling you over to basically rub it in your face - most unprofessional thing I've ever heard of at a show. Yuck.

  14. Let me just say, you are entirely entitled to pout, cry, whine and wallow after that show. Congrats on the blue satin but seriously EFF HER. Unprofessional is an understatement.

  15. How unprofessional. I would certainly report it to the host barn. Certainly look for her and don't enter shows she is judging at, I have (had?) a list of 2 judges I won't ride under in Ohio for similar reasons.

  16. Wow. I'm speechless. We have some "interesting" L judges but that's just ridiculous. Like, she should have her license pulled ridiculous. Unbelievable. I think I'd write to USDF about her.

  17. I am absolutely disgusted at this judge's behavior. If she didn't like what she saw, she could have given much more helpful comments instead of being such a condescending BEEOTTCH.

  18. I'd seriously complain. Would it kill her to give some positive/constructive feedback? Laughing at your test is just wrong.

  19. Damn girl.


    I'd let the organization know I was pissed and never ride with that judge again. lol and I'll pm you my shitty judge story. Always good for a giggle.

  20. She sounds like a nasty! Just sit back and think how humorous it'd be to see her try to do anything during a potential Bobby meltdown. Back to basics? Bitch please.

  21. Definitely complain to the organizer, really inappropriate! If enough people complain, at least they won't hire her again. Good for you for not quitting after that, jeez!

  22. Wow, what a crappy judge!! Asides from that at least you got two firsts :)
    However I'd definitely be annoyed in your position. A judge like that does not help encourage people to join the sport, and sounds downright rude...

  23. Rude. She doesn't sound like a nice person, never-the-less a good judge. Ew.

    Sorry you got all that crap when it sounds like your ride had some nice spots in it.

  24. She's a cunt. Sorry you had to deal with such a bratty woman.

  25. Would love to tell that judge - "there may be no I in team but there is definitely a U in douche." The point of schooling shows is to get judge feedback in a less stressful environment than a full show, sounds like she completely forgot that.
    Love the pic of you guys jumping outside! :)

  26. Fucking ridiculous is all I gotta say. F that judge.

  27. What a horrible awful experience with a wench of a judge. Kudos to you for not losing your shit then and there. I know plenty who would have. I too would like the name of said heinous judge. I'm in NY too, although in the Eastern part of the state, but I'd like to know when to run away screaming from a show or even an event. I've come across a few tough judges, especially the ones who usually do pure dressage and not eventing, but never outright cruel like that. You should absolutely complain to the show staff and to the association.

  28. This sounds like a hot mess all around! How can you have no staff at a horse show? Like seriously none? I don't get it! I'm glad we don't see what the judges have to say at our hunter/jumper shows. I think I would have buried myself in a hole long ago if I had to see what they thought about my rides.
    I don't blame you for needing some self esteem recovery time. Clearly though, this judge is a bully with questionable eye sight.

  29. You are awesome for riding Bobby in exactly the way he needed for that test -- that is honestly more valuable to him in the long run than a score or ribbon. I will try to emulate this good example in the future.

    But now I must be opinionated.

    I would complain directly to USDF. Listening to the Dressage Radio Show recently I found out that rider complaints go DIRECTLY to the judges (anonymized of course) and then the USDF follows up and is like "hey, have you stopped being such an inappropriate bitch yet?" but possibly not in those exact words.

    I urge you to do it because of the probably 100% of people who were offended, upset, over-criticized, and NOT HELPED by that judge at the show, maybe 10% would complain and that's not enough. That behavior is inappropriate, not only at a schooling level but at any level -- it is not constructive and therefore not what we want in our sport.

    Soapbox dismount. Sticks the landing.

  30. OH, MY, GOD.

    What a bitchy judge!! That is incredibly condescending and rude. This comment, "This level requires far more uphill balance than anything you've shown. Go back to basics before you come back to this level." kill me before I got down farther in the post.

    Just. Wow.

    One time I was told my horse was unsafe ad the judge told me to withdraw before XC. to be fair he was a lunatic and giraffes the whole test. We got a whopping 65 on an EVENTING test and proceeded to kick everyone's asses in jumping (back in the day when jumping actually could move you up from a bad test) and ended up 6th from beginning in 18th.

    Don't take it too hard, that judge was a bitch and we all know Bobby is fantastic when he's not flailing.

  31. First off - satanic kitty was on a previous post but I have to comment and say that we need more she-devil posts.

    Secondly - I can't add anything new to what everyone has said. Sounds very similar to my recent schooling show experience only at least my judge was socially acceptable/ knew how to talk to people. I would just bask in my blue ribbons whilst drinking all the adult beverages and eating all the cookies and brownies. And then go out and do all the fun things on my pony, which it sounds like you did!

  32. I would have been super upset too :( but then after getting the first place ribbons I would have just timed by score by 100 and pretended I got a 490!

  33. I think that you're completely justified in how you feel. That lady sounds like a nut. Consider she was so harsh to you and still you got 1st I wonder what others did.


If you can't say anything nice, fuck off.