Horse Life

All the Dressage

If there was one thing I could count on P for in a horse trial, it was that he would lay down a decent dressage test. Actually, that was about the only thing I COULD count on, because SJ and XC were always a surprise- which phase will we have stops in? Will we get eliminated?….You know the drill. Well, maybe you don’t, but welcome to my life.


Thanks for understanding, Simple Plan


We started working with Trainer B in May, and really, dressage fell to the wayside. I mean sure, Trainer B didn’t exactly let us go around looking like idiots, but the underlying premise of each session with him was to get P over the jumps. And he was a wee too busy chasing us over rolltops with branches to remind me over and over to use more outside rein or whatever.


It’s effective, though

And while I hesitate to say P is cured and will never stop again, the jumping is OBVIOUSLY much better, as is evidenced by having ONE (and stupid) refusal in THREE different horse trials, including our most recent at BN. We’re practically professionals now.


However, while I love seeing the strings of zeros underneath the jumping penalty columns, the dressage score column lately has me cringing.

Starter at Windridge- October 2017
Starter at War Horse-November 2017
BEGINNER NOVICE (not letting that go for awhile ;)) at Full Gallop- December 2017

I mean…yikes. We scored a 30.8 in June and a 32 WITH a course error last November. So something was going on.

Now, this isn’t meant to be an excuse. But at Wind Ridge and Full Gallop, the divisions were split though everyone rode the same test, just under different judges. At Windridge, my 40.0 was good enough for first in my section, with 9th place being 49.50. In the other section, the test scores ranged from 26-39. At Full Gallop, my section had one score at 31, then the rest were 39-54 (ouch), while the other section’s scores ranged from 30-42, with only last place in the 40’s. Sooooo….seems the standard of judging was a bit different in those 2 instances.

I always show Trainer  J our tests and she said to fill out the evals for the judge or at least drop a note to the organizer so they’re aware and can talk to the judge about properly judging the level. Has anyone done that before? I don’t want it to seem like I’m upset when we get a bad score, but I’d at least like to deserve it.


Anyway, the fact still remained that we needed to buckle down and not give the judge anything to criticize in the first place. So that’s just what we did on Wednesday.

We talked about our recent tests and right away Trainer J zoned in on the fact that when the horse gets tense and anxious, out survival instincts tell us to take our aids off, which is probably what I’m doing without realizing. And by taking my leg off, I was just letting him down and throwing him to the wind. And I know P well enough to know that that’s the last thing he needs.


P when we head down CL

So we got to work. P is always extra fancy when Trainer J is around.

He NEVER warms up like this.

Usually more like this:


Then we did some leg yields. They’re still a bit hard for P, but definitely getting better, as we can get more than one or two steps correct in a row.

Then worked on bending him at the canter. Something I struggle mightily with. Or maybe P does. Or maybe we just both do. I JUST.CAN’T.COORDINATE. And after that last downward transition, it was obvious what we needed to work on next. Sorry Trainer J.

So after I “ripped her heart out” with that last trot-walk transition, we went into working on those. I swear, Trainer J, I really do work on them at home.

She put us on a circle and at A and X we had to do a trot to walk to trot transition. Ok, simple. But alas, I couldn’t use my hands. At all. I say “OK” all nonchalantly, but inside I was all, “I’M NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO STOP HIM.”

She said I try to “save the ship” with my hands and P needs to respond off my body better. Which, when I give him the CHANCE to, he does pretty well. But I have 3 years of a spooking, bolting P in my head, so don’t give him the chance often. I see more bridleless riding in my future.


Especially now that things are winding down for a few weeks. Our next show will be the rescheduled CT on January 6th. Want to hear how weird I’ve gotten? I’m almost considering changing my entry from BN to N since it’s just a CT. Who am I?









8 thoughts on “All the Dressage”

  1. its always good to work on dressage. it’ll always help. as far as the scoring… each judge is soooo different that you can only really compare that day. boyd martin judged me once and i got a 29 which was far an away the best dressage score i ever got on the angry redhead.

    we were still in dead last.

    some judges have different perceptions of the scale. id say if one group was getting 20’s and the other 50’s, thats lopsided as hell and what are you doing.


    1. Yeah, I understand variation but when 20 points separate 1st place in one section and 1st place in the other, something’s not being judged right. It’s not as of all the phenomenal riders and are in one section and average riders are in the other. Or…maybe they are 😭


  2. i love the giraffe gif and the minion is one of my fave. And dressage. UGH i wish i could get a under 40 LOL and it always amazes me when how they seem to grade on a curve (The day i actually got in a 30’s everyone else was low 20’s. LOL I dont think we are that bad 😉 Gld you are figuring stuff out with P 🙂 AND WHO aRE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YO DONE WITH THE REAL KC? (NOVICE OMG)


  3. yay for an awesome lesson! honestly tho, when it comes to eventing dressage scores…. we’re kinda conditioned to seeing winning tests score in the 20s, when the reality is that there are no real objectives for each level or test like there are for pure dressage. and in pure dressage, scores above 60 are generally considered good. which… correlates to an eventing score of 40.

    eventing dressage scores are actually kinda meaningless as stand alone numbers, esp at starter events (recognized too, sorta – see aforementioned lack of true definition for judges to use). it’s most telling where the score places the rider in company. i’ve had a 28 and a 38 both put me in 3rd place in crowded divisions. even tho those tests were different numerically, they represent about equivalent efforts. just like that 40 that put you in first place – the 40 doesn’t mean that everybody in the class really sucked, it just speaks to the scale the judge used. (this also explains why different sections see wildly different score ranges — different judges using different standards like you observed bc, again, there’s no true test objectives in eventing).


    1. You’re right about the USDF vs USEA tests. My issue comes more when the judge is commenting on things that aren’t really level appropriate; for example, the horse’s frame in a BN test. The numbers are pretty meaningless when you look at them singly, but when you’ve gone 3 years of scoring in the high 20s/low 30s and are all of a sudden getting into (and staying in😳) the 40’s, I’ve got to see what I’m doing that’s not correct. My theory is that P has gotten so much more rideable lately and I’m just not doing my part.


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