After I finished my first test of the weekend, I left the arena feeling a bit grouchy and made that statement to my trainer. It's not that I resent doing things that are difficult. I thrive on demanding work. The more onerous, the better. Give me something that stretches me to my limit, and I am a happy camper. Weenie babies don't ride 100 miles through freezing cold temperatures in a single day. I did, more than a few times, and loved every minute of it.
What used to drive me nuts about endurance riding was all the people who would claim that they too were endurance riders. Whenever they were asked which endurance races they had done, they would claim that they just "conditioned" their horses in endurance saddles or had done 10 - 15 mile fun rides.
Sorry, simply using an endurance saddle to get your horse fit doesn't make you an endurance rider. You have to actually ride an endurance distance on a prescribed course under a vet's observation. And doing it more than once helps. That's what makes an endurance rider.
I am sure you can see where this is going.
As I finished that test and groused about this sport being difficult, what I really meant was that unless someone is actually showing at USDF-rated shows, they don't know how hard it really is to put it all together in front of a judge, make it look easy, and get a good score. It's hard, really hard.
That's what makes showing so hard. We don't get a second, third, or twelfth chance to get it just right. It has to be done correctly then and there, ready or not. So even if someone's horse has a few lovely flying changes at home, until they have to get five 4s from H to F with the third one landing at X, those changes don't mean much. And they mean even less if the rider can't follow it up with five 3s across the other diagonal. That was for Jen and her Prix St Georges test this weekend. Ask her if riding it correctly in front of a judge is easy or hard.
The thing about showing at a USDF-rated show is that the judges aren't cutting you any slack. It's not their job to make you feel good. It is their job to give you legitimate, honest, and helpful feedback. The judges at fun shows or schooling shows ARE there to encourage you and give you softball scores. That's their job. They're trying to get you to come back. They want you to feel good about showing so you'll pay your USDF money and help the sport grow.
I know many people will disagree with this viewpoint. Many riders feel that the judging at schooling shows is equal to that at USDF-rated shows. Maybe. I only show here in California, but I find it awfully difficult to believe that the L Program Graduates would change their style just because they live in another region of the US. The USDF and USEF work very hard to standardize judging around the country.
Until you can put it all together in front of a USEF judge at a USDF show, preferably one that holds his or her "S" license (Senior Judge), it might be best to hold off a bit on the celebration. Those USEF judges are tougher than they look.
So that's it. That's my rant. I am getting down from my soap box. What's your feeling on judging and scores?