Dressage is the most elegant of equine disciplines, but sometimes, despite hard work and preparation, things don’t go to plan at a show, and you just have to laugh.
COTH bulletin board users have enjoyed sharing their stories in a recent thread, “I didn’t make it past X…” and then in a follow-up thread, “Spin-off: I made it past X, and then this happened…”
We’ve gathered some of our favorite responses below. Have a funny dressage story to share? Email Lindsay at email@example.com, and we may use it in a future story.
Halted at X and was having a nice test until the horse took offense at a large orange cat outside the arena and proceeded to buck/spin me off. Judge, who was a pillar of our local dressage community, asked if I was OK and noted that I could get back on and finish the test since no legs of the horse had left the ring. Somehow I got back on and finished the test, albeit with considerably less impulsion. Judge’s comment was, “Courageous ride with understandably less impulsion in second half.”
Same horse (failed at jumping, FWIW) took off bucking because there was a horse trotting or cantering on hard ground on the other side of a tall hedge. This was on the track at Del Mar. I stayed on this time, but the judge rang the bell for off course. I gathered my wits and continued the test, only to discover that I must have started in the wrong direction and ridden the mirror image of the test, or something, because when I turned up the center line to halt, my back was to the judge. The judge hadn’t caught it either until then. That judge was another pillar of our local dressage community.
—(Peggy) Peggy Kline, Torrance, California
I just rode my first rated show this weekend in an arena we have shown in 10 billion times (and multiple times just this year at schooling shows).
Day 1 – Halt at X, salute, trot to C, SPOOK SO VIOLENTLY AT C THAT OUR BRIDLE NUMBER FLIES OFF. I caught my trainer’s eye and did my best “WTF, am I disqualified?” look. Didn’t hear a bell, so I proceeded. Number had landed in the ring on the rail, and I’m on a horse with a known history of spooking at trash/litter/shadows/anything on the ground. Judge had the good grace to not mention it.
Day 2 – Same test. Get past C, which was still VERY interesting. Half turn and trot back to the judge. Horse decides to stick her head straight out and do one of those massive gut-clearing coughs right at C. Apparently the cough was so satisfying that she died for a second, tripped and fell to her knees and leapt up cantering. Took a few strides to get her back. I decided our test was ruined, so I really went for broke on the lengthenings and ended up winning by 5 percentage points. Judge was very understanding that sometimes stupidity just happens!
—(Sunspiria) Serena Carlson, Spokane, Washington
After the show, the judge, Scott Peterson, told me, “I almost stood up and yelled to back him in” after I had trouble getting my horse in the ring for a test.
I know that judge gave us longer than allowed, and after the show he gave me some very kind advice, which set me on a quest in which I grew incredibly as a rider. I’m still thankful I got to ride in front of him that day on a VERY rank horse.—(Netg) Annette, Tucson, Arizona
First show with my boy went something like this:
A Enter Working Trot
X Halt Salute
Proceed in working…what? Pee!?!??!!
Yep…the judge at B was the one that pointed out that he was peeing. I was trying to get the bugger to move; a little kick, a tap with the whip—nope! He took that moment to PEE at X!
Needless to say, the judges allowed me to re-enter the ring. Unfortunately I caused the show to be held up for 15 minutes while they harrowed the centerline after my test as the next horse wouldn’t go through the puddle. I overhead the judges on lunch hour laughing about my experience. One judge said, “How long did she warm that horse up?” Twelve years I have owed this horse and not once has he ever peed under saddle since. Special boy only picks the finest moments to embarrass and humble me.
—(Farys) Morgan, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
An adult re-rider friend trained his cute little Quarter Horse to second level. At one show at his home barn, he entered, halted at X, and his horse stretched out and peed. He went on with the test, came to the final halt…and his horse peed again! As he left the arena, the judge smiled and said, “Thank you for marking X for everyone.”
—(Belowthesalt) East Bay, California
Count me in as another one who didn’t make it to X, didn’t even make it in the ring! Pony was feeling feisty and sure enough exploded in full bronc mode while we circled the ring. I got dumped off (more of a lifesaving push myself off the side before falling and getting stepped on or worse), and pony bolted away. As I stood up the judge waved me over and said, “Well, you’re not eliminated because you weren’t in the ring. Why don’t you take a little more time for warm up and come back and ride your test at the end of your division?”
I did NOT feel like getting my horse and getting back on. I would have preferred to call it a day and go home and nurse my pride, but I knew what a kind and generous offer that was from the judge, so I had to take it. Not to mention I needed to make sure not to teach my horse that the rodeo gets you out of going in the ring! Retrieved my horse, put a breastplate on, and lo and behold came back and did a nice test about a half hour later. Certainly a day to remember!
—(TCR) Jessi Cery, Minneapolis, Minnesota
I had a shocker recently. My young eventer [is] in his first season, where we have done little dressage work and a lot of hacking out and pole work. I had made sure that my horse knew that the little plastic dressage arena was not “pole work” and was fortunate enough to have one to practice in at home. He seemed to know the difference, and that was fine.
Went to an event where they were limiting the riders in warm-up; you could go in when there were two in before you, so you literally had 12 minutes warm up. It was a cold day, and he was sluggish, and I was having trouble cantering as he just couldn’t be bothered.
Cue into arena, I made it past X, but at the canter transition between A-C, I gave a big kick, and we jumped straight out. He also jumped it like it was a 3’6″ oxer and then neatly cantered down the outside of the arena.
In hindsight obviously that was coming. Judge said it was very entertaining.
I was reading once for a friend (a professional), and after X when I said “track right,” she tracked left. The judge didn’t ring the bell. All I could do is keep reading. She rode the mirror image of the test and got a super score.
—(Dudley C) Liz Call, Staatsburg, New York
Oh, I think we’ve all been there. My late mare was either first or dead last due to hormone issues. At one show, we had a super warm-up. Then a stallion made his presence known, and she lost all decorum. We entered at A, halted at X, she squatted and urinated, and that was that. I couldn’t get her to move! So I bowed out and eventually moved her sideways and out of the ring
—(Dressurfrau) Anna Schreibt, Ivor, Virginia
I once did a training level test the wrong way after the walk, still got a good score, have it on video. No one noticed!
Client’s horse, first time up centerline, judge’s tent blew away, and although I kept him in the arena, there was no way he was going the rest of the way to that tent after they put it back up.
Another time at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, 17+hand warmblood, fourth level, bucks me off in front of judge. I land holding the reins but can’t get back on in my Konigs. Nice lady bystander comes in and gives me a leg up, and we continue on like nothing happened.
Yet another horse, doing first level, go for lengthen canter down the long side and get one-tempis (he was not even trained to do singles at that point). All I get is comment “not required at this level.” Love showing!