Being sidelined from riding because of this dang injury has given me the opportunity to look at things from a different angle. I’ve spent years and years on the rail coaching my son and other riders at horse shows. I’ve been a rider, a scribe and played many other roles as an advocate of Dressage Schooling shows; but this, spectator with no real attachment to any rider is a new, eye opening, experience.

I have gone to several schooling shows over the summer to cheer on friends, observer riding trends and to just get more involved with dressage in my new home area. Schooling shows serve a great educational benefit to the developing horse and rider, but what I’ve been witnessing as a spectator has been very disappointing.

I’ll jump right in… just because it’s a schooling show doesn’t mean etiquette is left in the wash stall. Trainers school the basics at home. We all know riders brains check out in the beginning of showing, some riders never get over this (my son). School how to behave in a crowded warm up ring, to pass left shoulder to left shoulder. How to be considerate and safe.

There is a proper way to A X halt salute… Yes, I know I have a mare that loves the dramatic entrance, the instant I take my hand off the reins to salute she fires up into a spin, we’ve school the halt/salute so much I’m now safe to pull this off at a show. There is a proper way to enter and exit the arena. Teach it, the presentation of your number upon entrance and the walk to the judge on exit are all forms of respect. Instruct your rider to dress with honor for the judge and their horse. Dirty breeches and T-shirt are an insult to both.

Trainers need to be aware their riders reflect on them. I’ve gone to horse shows looking for a new trainer and hired a trainer solely on the turn out her riders had. If you put a beginner rider on a second level horse, reins and legs flopping, arms stiff and straight, dirty black breeches and a hoodie, I’m pretty sure you have no real clue about dressage, do I want you to work with me or my child … NO!!!

Trainers need to know they reflect on their rider. Don’t stand on the rail or read a test in sweat pants, bed hair, and a dirty barn coat. Really you’re paid to be there, be professional.

The last schooling show I went to there were 7 of us in training level 3. Six of us got a red (second place) ribbon. I had a 72 on my test, the lady in the stall next to me, also with a red Ribbon, had a 52, It took three minutes to discover the 6 in second place had scores 72, 69, 63, 62, 60, 52 (???)

Yes at 50 plus I love my pretty 49 cent ribbon but more important I love the comments on my test. Judges be real, be honest, BE CONSTRUCTIVE, that’s what we are paying for, that’s the purpose of a SCHOOLING SHOW. Don’t close your eyes to bad riding because you know the trainer, leave politics at home.  Know the test. WHEN it says WORKING TROT RISING it means working trot rising, there is not an asterisk anywhere saying, “If your horse is gaited or you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to post.”

I’ve heard from many riders that schooling shows have become a joke and this just breaks my heart.

I’ll crawl down off my mounting block and stop yammering on over lost protocols. Dressage of all sports has a certain elegance, history and formality. If it doesn’t start at the beginning, if the trainers don’t teach the basics and the nuances of the discipline and the judges don’t have pride in doing the job of guiding riders – praising what’s good, challenging us to grow – then riders, walk on. Ask more of your trainer or find a better one. Ask more from your schooling show judge; take pride… we deserve it.

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