I volunteered as a scribe at a horse show yesterday. I was a little worried because at first my shift was five hours and I was pretty sure that my hand would not hold up writing for five hours straight. Thankfully, after telling that to the volunteer coordinator my shift got cut down to roughly 3.5-4 hours. Which I pulled off although near the end my hand was in a state of enormous cramp and my brain was starting to blank out on how to write the letter "6" and spell simple words like "activity". I can't even imagine how the judge's brain must have felt after eight hours of having to comment on an average of fifteen moves per rider (of which there were over sixty riders!)
It was a lot of fun though and I really liked the judge. I hadn't scribed since last summer though and I forgot to review the common abbreviations (despite telling myself I would numerous times!) so that made it a little more challenging. Because I knew a little more what I was doing I was able to watch some of the riders myself at little moments between having to write stuff down.
I'm not sure exactly what the protocol is for judge's - but I've noticed they seem to be expected to make more comments on the horse's performance than the riders. They do get to say some stuff about the rider but I'm not sure if that's only in schooling shows and they can only talk about the horses when you get into the FEI Levels. I'll have to look into that. But I have noticed the judge's need to focus more on whether the horse is stretching properly, bending properly, etc.
Meanwhile, where my brain is at since I'm working so hard on my posture and form these days and trying to communicate with Toadie, the few moments when I wasn't writing that I could look up and watch the rides I was completely focused on the riders. I have to say the only two horses I remember were a very spunky, hot little Saddlebred near the end who was riding in the Second Level test and who was just adorable. And this amazing, beautiful Freisan who was riding in the First Level tests and who was so energetic and graceful that I never noticed what his rider was doing because he was such a beautiful horse.
But it was interesting to watch the riders at Training Level (which is much more the level I'm at with my riding - I'm definitely quite a ways away from First and Second level!). And little Toad is not even ready for her Intro tests (which are the very beginning tests). One woman even road an Eventing Test which I'd never seen before. It wasn't that much different but the configuration was different enough I'm sticking to the Dressage Intro tests when I start doing schooling shows with Toad because I've memorized those and the Eventing test was all sorts of configured differently. Plus, I have no desire to do Eventing. Ever. No Cross Country for me, Toad or my daughter! Too dangerous!
It was really interesting to watch the riders more at my level. Some seemed to do very well despite being nervous. Some had horses who were really wound up and freaked out and I could tell a big difference between the riders who stayed calm with their freaked out horses and the riders whose freaking out seemed to escalate with their horse. One rider really reminded me of myself because she had this big black Thoroughbred who was very scared and kept scooting and bolting and every time he did she would say "Ssssssh ... relaaaax ..." and never got upset. In fact he freaked out so badly she finally stopped him in front of the judge's booth and said with a relaxed laugh, "We're going to excuse ourselves, ok?" That was inspiring to see such a good natured ride who obviously loved and understood her horse. I hope I can have that much composure the first time Toad and do a schooling show if she freaks out like that.
Speaking of freaking out, Trainer K. rode Gemini for his first and second level tests. That was sure a treat to get to sit with the judge and listen to the scores she was giving my trainer! Gemini did really well which I thought was amazing considering how nervous he can be. They brought Favio with him to be a spectator and get used to the show environment and he did really well too. Well, I guess he didn't do as well when they first go there but I got there after they'd already lunged him. Gemini's first ride went really well and his second ride went well but he was all wound up because while Trainer K. was warming him up he got spooked by some horses that were on a trail ride who passed the arena. He did some circling and a couple little panicked levades. But I heard Trainer K. laughing and telling him all would be well and that seemed to help him calm down. I was watching them from the judge's booth and Trainer K. looked over just as she'd gotten him to stop spooking and I gave her the thumb's up then immediately regretted it because 1) the judge must never know anything about the horse's competing including whether or not I know them and 2) I imagine it is considered very bad form for the scribe to give a thumb's up to a total stranger in the middle of a show. Oh well! Thank goodness it was a schooling show!
I was surprised by some of the riders doing things I had been taught never to do like being way too harsh with their horses or doing what I've been told is the worst thing to do which is driving with your butt to get the horse to move faster. That basically means pushing down with your butt then pushing forward in the saddle. Just watching it makes it look like it would hurt the horses back. So of course for me, it would've been far more interesting if every single rider came with a bio of who their trainers are and who their riding instructors are and what their backgrounds are. I fear I have become my own worst nightmare because even though I am still a "green rider" I find myself watching other rider's and thinking "No, no no! Don't do that!" Sigh. Maybe I'm not *that* green if I know what not to do. I really don't know what level I would be. My head right now seems to be trying to get way forward of what my body is capable of. Right now the struggle for me is to gain more flexibility and strength and then I can actually ride the way I know I'm aspiring too.