Will you win a dressage competition depending on which judge you got? 

Good night,

Today me and this handsome fella above have been to a dressage competition. My instructor Kim went for her first competition after giving birth to her candy as I like to call her child (Snoepje). Together with Ivonne, we had a really nice day filled with laughter and Kim did great for her first time back competing since ten months time. 

The competition was around 20-30 min from our stable, so not too far away, and it wasn’t so busy which was nice as well. However walking away from the competition I had a bitter taste in my mouth. 

Growing up I played handball. Handball it’s pretty easy, you score the most goals, you win. You got no one else to blame, but yourself if you don’t score goals. However in dressage it all falls in the hand of the judges. I know they should be, but do they really manage to stay objective? Do they remember that they should look at how handy a rider is and how well he or she does the movements and not at how spectacular the horse is? Will you get more points if you got longer legs cause that looks “prettier” or when you got an expensive attire? 

I have my doubts..

What I find good horse riding can be completely different to what another person finds good horse riding. I want to see a relaxed combination that flows together where you see both enjoy what their doing in harmony. Not a horse forced into a specific position with a rider riding with a harsh hand. 

Watching the combinations warm up today I noticed a girl that was riding a really nice horse, but she rode the horse in a way that I would almost call animal abuse. Her aids were all over the place and as the horse didn’t understand what she asked the reins became shorter and shorter until the horse had its head on its chest. She moved the horse around the arena in a way that made me want to gag. 

The fact that the horse didn’t buck her off, showed how much shit he actually put up with. At one point I stood with another groom that I had never spoken to before and this rider comes in front of us and clearly makes a point of that she could steer the horse in extremely small circles.  The other groom looked at me and we both start laughing at how redicolous it looked. But then she goes in and got second place, because today, tight riding on”spectacular” moving horses was what the judge found good riding. 

But what can we do about it? Not much. As long as there isn’t a general guideline to what good (animal friendly)riding is, there is going to be loads of different opinions and scores depending on the judge. I get that it is that way, but I must say, my “overly fair heart” bleeds just thinking about it.