Dressage Writing - why everyone should do it at least once!
Recently, I was asked if I was available to do some dressage writing at a local venue. In all honesty, I've always wondered why anyone would want to go and sit in a box writing scores for a judge. But I had nothing planned, and with the promise of copious amounts of cake, I agreed...
...I am telling you now, GO AND DO IT! (I have already been another 3 times!). Not only was it actually quite enjoyable, but I learnt so much and I definitely feel like I will score better on my next dressage test because of it.
These are just a few of the things which really stood out as important...
Smiling at the judge when you enter really does set a good impression - the judges definitely liked it when the rider looked pleased to be there!
Turning out your horse to a high standard - all of the judges I have written for didn't seem to mind if the horse was plaited or not, but they did make a comment if they weren't groomed well.
Choose the right level test for you and your horse. I was told once that unless you are regularly getting 70% + at the level you are competing at then don't move up! Remember, in the scale of marking, 6/10 is only classed as 'satisfactory' and 7/10 is 'fairly good'. One aspect that really stood out when I was dressage writing, is that the judge would much rather see a lower level test performed well than a higher level test performed poorly.
When learning the test look at the directives. Not all of the test sheets have the directives written on them; make sure you find one which has (or a copy of the score sheet like the one below). The directives explain what the judge is looking for within each movement *.
Make sure you give yourself sufficient time. I saw so many people rushing because they had arrived late and didn't have enough warm up time. Rushing around on competition day is never good; stressed grooms, stressed riders, stressed horses - its a recipe for disaster! Start getting ready at least 30 minutes earlier than you think you need to, something always crops up and eats into that 'spare time' wether it's not being able to find your show jacket or getting stuck in traffic. If you end up getting to the venue early then have yourself a celebratory breakfast from the food van!!
Knowing what the judge is looking for at different levels. So many times I have heard things like 'I can't believe that horse beat me, it wasn't even in a contact'. One judge explained, at the lower levels (eg prelim), aspects such as rhythm, accuracy of movements and obedience is far more important than the horse being in a perfect contact all the time.
The little things really do matter - you can lose a mark for not using a corner properly or making a transition a few strides too early.
Learn how to correctly give and retake the reins. It's not as easy as it sounds, and unfortunately, so many people were doing it incorrectly. In the past I really struggled to get a good give and retake, but I spent some time watching youtube videos and found it really useful. check out these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnBkMLjYV1w https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa48doIu8S0 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOHTxCpXlU4 (super podcast!)
Make corrections if you need to - this one I need need to remember! For example, when I took my horse to her first ever dressage competition she went into the ring and just went a bit dead to my leg. Instead of correcting it, lets say by giving her a a little kick or tickle with the whip, I just left her and the whole test ended up feeling very 'backwards'. This definitely showed in my scores. In the second test I corrected her at the beginning - I lost marks on one movement because it momentarily caused her to lose rhythm and balance but the marks for the remainder of the test where much better!
If you make a mistake, refocus and carry on! If you make an error of course you will only be given 2 penalties - it really isn't that much. Unfortunately, I have seen a few tests where people have gone wrong, become flustered and then let it affect the rest of their test. Try to forget about the mistake and continue like it hasn't even happened.
Praise your horse! Regardless of how the test has gone make sure you give your horse a pat after the test has finished. The judges like to see this!
So, I'm hoping this blog post has inspired you to have a go at dressage writing. Honestly, I would really recommend it (especially if its a venue where cake is provided!!! haha!). And, while you are there, if anything stands out to you as really important let me know an I can add it (with your name if you want) to the bullet points above. I look forward to hearing some of your experiences soon.
*The BD handbook gives lots of useful information on this (page 15-30):