Confessions From Our First Schooling Show

A whistle trilled from the judge’s table and it felt like all the air had been sucked out of my chest. I heard my husband, Phil, beginning to call the test. “A – enter working jog.” I froze and, as if by magic, Saint Chic started down the centerline. That was my last memory until, “G – halt, salute”. We waddled around somewhere in the area between X and C, both exhaling. Could we have possibly held our breath for five minutes?

Saint Chic With His First Blue Ribbon

Saint Chic sporting his prize – that’s his registered name and he really is a Saint!

The judge was KC Parkins-Kyle and she could not have been nicer. Patiently, without a trace of criticism or disapproval, she carefully explained the location of G. I felt like I was being kindly coached and even started to relax – a little. We were gifted a blue ribbon (we were the only one in the class) and KC even found some nice things to say about our ride on the score sheet.

We rode again the following month, this time with Kathy Simard and found another supportive, sympathetic, gracious judge. Could this be the norm? Actually, I’ve found it is.

Many years ago when we worked in the reining and reined cow horse disciplines, we helped at shows – running the gate, working cattle and scribing. I learned more about the ins and outs of reining from scribing than I ever could have imagined. So, I decided to give it a try in Dressage – same results. You can’t buy this quality of training!

Without exception, every judge I’ve worked with, from schooling shows to Dressage In The Rockies to the WDACO Fall Finale, has confirmed my first experiences. These people are on your side, rooting for you all the way. They delight in giving you a good score, look for positive comments to make about both you and your horse, and groan when they are forced to give you a low mark. They will wait patiently when your horse spooks at the judge’s table and work hard to give you the benefit of doubt if something is unclear.

Some of the comments I’ve heard – in my words because there wasn’t time to write them down:

  • When a lame horse had to be excused – I’m here for the horse. I’ve heard this comment from multiple judges.
  • When a horse did a beautiful turn and trotted perfectly straight trot down the centerline, then came up on his hind legs – Drat! That was a 9 until he reared.
  • When a Quarter Horse was lifting at the trot – I’m goin’ for it – that’s a 9!
  • When a horse refused to go near the judge’s table – You should have seen my first test – we never made it past X!
  • When a horse had an actively swinging back – Now that’s a happy tail!
  • Nice job! I hear that one over and over.

If you’re thinking about showing, go for it. Consider it as feedback from a qualified instructor who has seen lots of horse/rider combinations and every imaginable problem – well, almost. One judge confessed that she saw something new at every show. In my experience, you will find the test along with scores and comments to be helpful and supportive. After all, feedback is just another part of the journey!


Dana's Doodles, I Survived

Courtesy of Dana’s Doodles, Facebook

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

©Pat Van Buskirk 2017

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