Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Morgan Show.......... Dressage Day

Part 1

There had been a question about whether it was appropriate for the dressage riders to be schooling their horses on the outside of the court before official schooling began on Wednesday morning. I could understand that some horses would need the opportunity to look at the court before they were asked to perform but adhering to the rules is my primary obligation as a show manager. Doing it in a matter that is fair to all exhibitors carries equal weight.

Once the question was brought to my attention, answering it correctly was the only fair way to go. There would be no Technical Delegate (also known as the USEF Steward) available until just before showtime Wednesday morning so it was up to me to find resolution in a timely manner. It wouldn't help anyone to know the answer after the schooling opportunity was gone so I was scrambling through rulebooks trying to find the answer.

What I found in the USEF rulebook was no reference to schooling before the session at all. There was a reference to schooling before each ride but that didn't cover my question. No reference meant there was no restriction so I allowed the arena to be opened at 6:30 AM for the purpose of dressage riders only walking their horses outside the perimeter of the court.

With a dressage representative from the show committee scheduled to monitor that schooling, it meant for that morning, I didn't need to be at the arena until when the show office opened at the posted time of 7:30.

That was my only morning to sleep in for the entire horse show and believe me I planned to take advantage of it. I don't know what it is about horse shows and plans but this one didn't work out either. I ended up awake so I wound up at the horse show early.

It was a good thing that I did because when I arrived the show steward had arrived and right behind her was our dressage judge. The schedule had been changed because of a decrease in entries and no one had bothered to inform either of these officials, a faux pax for sure. I explained to each our official starting time. The judge went off in search of a Starbucks and the steward went back to her car to stay warm.

It's probably good to mention here that while I school my horses using dressage techniques, these Morgan horse shows have been my first experience managing dressage classes. I participated one time in a dressage schooling show but that's it for my dressage expertise. There are lots of little nuances about the sport that I am learning from a managers perspective.

For those that might be wondering why I don't ride dressage even though I school it, it has to do with two things. One is my depth perception is skewed because of my double vision and those 50 meter circles terrify me. I can ride beautiful round circles, it's getting them to fit the measurement that spooks me.

Then there's sitting the trot. My back hurts just looking at sitting that trot. I know that sitting the trot isn't required at training level but then training level is probably way past my horse's skill and I wouldn't be happy riding him less than his skill level to accommodate my aching back.

Number three reason, and probably the most important to date is it would require new tack. My tack budget is currently slim to none so I must be content making necessary replacements only, not buying tack for another discipline BUT that doesn't mean the day won't come that I try dressage again.......only time will tell.

Another thing I'd like to mention is the weather just out and out sucked on dressage day. We'd had everything from snow, sleet, hail, sideways rain, thunder and lightning the night before and more of the same was scheduled that day.

When the dressage judge arrived, I knew immediately she was our judge. I could tell by the way she was dressed. She was wearing a lovely white fitted spring dress with some kind of black pattern on it. Her outfit was topped off with a matching hat that consisted of a pillbox type crown with a large flat brim. The edge of the brim and the band were trimmed in black.

It was elegant and indeed springlike while our facility felt more like mid winter. I couldn't help but feel for our judge although I understood her desire to portray the elegance of her sport. I was hoping she'd make it through our 27 rides without freezing to death.

Once the judge was in place at the far end of the arena, I got a call from the scribe. If I recall the judge wanted the volume of the music turned down. I made sure the problem was fixed and we moved off towards the first ride.

The first rider entered the arena right on time. Before she had exited the arena there'd been a call to the office. It turns out the horse was disqualified for jumping out of the court. Something I had missed. The information was passed on to the appropriate people so the rider knew what was going on then we were on to the second rider.

There was another call from the scribe asking for the TD at the judge's table. At this point I was beginning to think that maybe dressage was going to be labor intensive on this blustery day. It turned out the second rider was disqualified as well for using a whip that was too long. That rider needed to be notified as well so she wouldn't make the same mistake on later rides.

Later I heard the second rider borrowed the whip because she didn't have time to go back to the barn to retrieve hers. She's just assumed it was appropriate and assuming had cost her scores.

From this point dressage was off and running and I didn't hear much more about it other than a question about the length of break. We were running a few minutes behind. The judge opted to shorten her break to keep us on schedule. Once that was confirmed the information was passed onto the exhibitors and it was all good.

Keeping exhibitors apprised of what's happening with the schedule is always a good thing. I like to have the hours the show office is going to be open posted as well. That way exhibitors know where they stand. Even if they don't utilize the information, it's been available so any issues that might arise around scheduling are of their making.

Most of the horses not showing in dressage arrived that day while the dressage classes were underway. This year's show turned out be be down by ten horses and for some reason it felt like a whole lot more than that. Move in day just didn't seem nearly as frantic as it had the year before.

Maybe that's because I knew what to expect. Then more trainers had sent representatives in the day before to ready stalls for horses. By the time the dressage rides were over most of the pleasure horses were moved in. That meant I'd have time to school my horse once the awards were done and the dressage ring was dismantled.

Can't you just see what Legs would have thought about that white dressage court sitting right smack dab in the center of that spooky arena? Too bad I didn't get that done!

To be continued.............

Dressage Day Schooling and Footing


  1. I appreciate your postings - "insider view" from behind the table! :)

  2. Yuck - I hate when it's freezing like that at horse shows. You sound like a fabulous horse show manager! I'm sorry to hear that attendance was down at the Morgan show though :(

  3. It is interesting hearing about the show from someone else's experience. I ride with the person who was disqualified first. She is new to dressage and actually won her training level test with that horse. :)