Reply To: What Makes a Rider Effective?

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While I agree with G&S, I thought I would add the following, after a ridiculous experience with a judge. My horse and I were at a local series show. My mustang had been driving for about 6 months; this show was merely for the experience. I drive combined driving, not pleasure, but these shows are wonderful to get the horses in with a mix, trailering, strange places and horses, etc. As I have done throughout my competition careers, I always look up the judge and try to see what he expects. At this barn, I can count on judges who are essentially saddle seat, NSH/Arab/Friesian/Saddlebred judges, i.e. the higher the head (more bulging, rolling eyeballs and fire snorting nostrils) the better the placing. But since these are for experience, I don’t particularly care. Which is good. This judge told me that the mustang and I had had the best rounds in both classes – pleasure and reinsmanship – of any horse in the arena: transitions accurate and true, steady gaits and paces, halts and backups, and the best reinsmanship pattern. BUT! I had NOT “framed my horse up” and that I had not shown myself “to be an effective driver.” My horse was not traveling with her neck anywhere near perpendicular to her back, her head did not drop at the poll, rather she was traveling with a low, rounded neck and head carriage (and rounded back). In fact, he suggested I “consider a change over to ‘dresaje’ (really how he said it!) as I was completely ineffective pleasure driver.”

In your case, and as G&S said, we don’t know at what level you are riding, but I will guess that, as you are asking the question, it would be lower than Prelim. Your score is not horrid, nor, as G&S said, is a 7 poor. Where I disagree with G&S is that sometimes a judge SHOULD see the command. For instance, if the horse suddenly sees something on the rail: hat, plastic bag, small child, etc., and decides to take the natural avoidance tactic, the sooner you understand and correct the behaviour, the more effective is your riding, and thus, the higher your rider score.

Another example, another horse, at a ridden dressage show: the horse is hot and ridiculous. He squirreled to X. He reared during my salute, launching into a bold working trot from the rear. Things got no better throughout the test. The highlights were the half-pass in each direction – which were spectacular. Basically from the halt to launch to trot transitions, the test was beyond busted, but we carried on and at each point of movement, something happened: transition of gait or pace, circle, serpentine – something. At the end of the test, the horse actually halted and kept 4 feet on the ground. As I saluted, he was busy nodding his head up and down, as if to say, “Wasn’t that GRAND?!!” The judge was wearing a very large grin as he returned our salute.

Well, end of the day, we had about a 30.something – easily the worst test I had ever ridden. BUT our rider score was a 9.5. The comment made was that while the horse was simply impossible, the rider was effective in keeping him “in his skin” and “from doing bodily harm to those around him.” Later, the judge corralled me to say he thought the horse had great potential and he hoped he would see us again on a day when the horse was effective as I had been.

The judge: Dr. Reiner Klimke