This weekend I took a couple of students to a local schooling show. We had objectives and a plan. One student had never been to a dressage show and she was riding a “repurposed” jumper. The other was an adult amateur, who had not shown in over a year. The adult amateur, has had problems with her spooky pony. And the last time we took her pony out he could not function in the warmup ring. So, our plan was to get in a ring and see where we are.
The weather was crazy. The chance of rain was about 95%, the wind was howling. The wind was strong enough that it blew the letters of the ring over. The judge came out of the box because she thought the box was going to blow over. The trash bag liners were blowing out of the trash cans. I am sure you can imagine how fun this would be. There was also a draft horse driving competition at the same facility. If your horse doesn’t live around driving vehicles, you do not want to introduce your horse to the sport of driving while at a show. But you get the idea. Nothing was going well. But, as I said we came with an objective. Get in the ring, see how far we have come and to see if the teenager liked the dressage ring.
Both riders showed in training level. We had great warmups. Both horses worked just like they do at home. Ok, maybe a little different. Neither horse liked a white napkin blowing across the warm-up ring or the plastic liner of the trash can coming out in the wind. But other than that, I was happy.
So, we had, or rather they had good rides. They were not rides that amazed anyone. They weren’t going to win. But they were nothing to be ashamed of.
But when we got the test back my riders were shocked. The scores were horrible. And the comments were really harsh. I can’t comment about whether or not the scores were appropriate. But I can say the comments were very harsh to the riders.
Now, I could go on about how judges need to consider the amateurs of our sport. And how harsh comments and poor scores are discouraging to youth and amateurs. I could go on and on about how we need to encourage the youth and amateur population in an effort to keep our sport alive and well. But that is not what I want to say.
My point of this post is that, we went to a show, and we did what we set out to do. I think it was a great success. I think it is important to remember your goals. The scores didn’t really matter. We did what we set out to do. The comments were hurtful. But they weren’t wrong. Maybe they weren’t what we wanted to hear. But maybe we needed to hear them.
Brene Brown encourages us to have those difficult conversations. But as an instructor, I want to keep my clients. So, it is very difficult to make myself have those conversations. I tend to sugar coat things. Sometimes, judges tell us things we don’t want to hear. Sometimes they tell us things we need to hear. It can be like having a courageous conversation with a friend. We all want to read those test sheets and smile and relive the best ride of our life. But reality kicks in.
We must also remember that the judge, is commenting on one moment of time. She doesn’t know that your horse is normally has lovely long neck and he really doesn’t look like a giraffe on a regular basis. The judge doesn’t know your pony is a spectacular mover. The judge doesn’t know that this is your first show and you have never been so nervous in your life.
It wasn’t your best ride, and there will always be things to work on.
As one of my former instructors would say: There are many roads to Rome. Sometimes it is difficult for instructors and friends to get those things said. The judge and your instructor may have different objectives. But the judge can because the judge is sort of untouchable. The judge is not there to be your friend. And, although you may not like what they said or how they said it, chances are there is something to learn from it.
My point is you are going to run into judges that make you wonder why they are so unhappy. And make you wonder why the show management keeps hiring them. Or make you wonder, if you are on the right path. And yes, you should remember them and proceed accordingly. But if you have your own goals in mind, and you stay focused on your goals, you can still get a lot out of their input. Don’t take their comments to heart. But don’t ignore them either
When you read your test comments and scores, remember your goals of the show. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. The test is just one part or the puzzle. The comments may be correct. And they maybe hurtful. But they are just words. The judge doesn’t know you or your horse. The judge can’t feel what is going on under you.
Did you get in the ring? Did you learn? Then it was worth doing.
Focus on your goals, focus on your horse. Read those comments for what they are: One moment of time.