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From a scribe's POV

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  • From a scribe's POV

    I've been writing a monthly newsletter for the barn where I board. I've also scribed over 4,000 tests with about 18 judges (2 "O"). This past fall, I wrote the following for the barn kids who were about to start their interscholastic show season. It's just stuff I've observed and learned from scribing. I hope it may be of some value to you, too.

    Advice from a scribe

    • When riding past the judge before entering the arena, politely greet the judge by saying “good morning” and “my number is __”. This gives the rider an air of confidence and maturity, indicating that he/she has experience and makes the judge appear less scary to the rider. It also helps the scribe who needs to verify the rider’s number.

    • When practicing your tests, be sure to start them from outside the arena and not always from inside. Also, practice entering from both the right and left sides as you do not know where you will be outside the arena when the judge whistles for you to enter. It is obvious when a rider only practices an entry from one side or doesn’t practice it at all. The result is usually overshooting the center line meaning that your very first movement is not accurate. While it may be easier to begin your practice tests from inside, the extra effort will pay off through the judge’s first impression.

    • Remember the “geometry” of your tests, meaning to be precise about the size and shape of your movements. A circle should be completely round. A line should be straight. Riders often throw away points due to sloppy geometry.

    • The speed of your movements is another place where riders give away points. Work with your trainer to ensure you are going neither too fast nor too slow.

    • While we may not agree with every score we get, it is important to remember that the only people who see the test from the judge’s perspective are the judge and scribe. I can personally state that I cannot determine the true accuracy of a test when watching one from any point on the ground. The view from the judge’s box is unique.

    • Be sure to fully read and understand the purpose of each test as noted on it. You may expertly execute a movement that is not the focus of the test, but that does not really help your score. Focus on the purpose of the test as that is what the judge is focusing on.

    • I have not personally witnessed any judge make a negative comment about a particular breed, nor a tendency to favor one over another. It is obvious that some individual horses as well as breeds, lend themselves to greater success in dressage. Thus, their natural ability to perform a movement is better.

    • Don’t try to advance to test levels for which you and/or your horse are not ready. This is not about the ego of riding this level or that level. It is about systematic training that builds your horse’s muscles (and your skills) in the manner needed to perform the movements. This is the only thing that I have ever seen make a rider look foolish. Skipping levels means that you are skipping essential training for your horse and setting up yourself (and horse) for failure and injury. I have witnessed judges who made pointed comments to riders and their trainers for allowing this to happen. This and abusing a horse are the two things I’ve seen visibly anger judges.

    • While this will not directly impact your scores, it is important to always behave in a reasonable, mature manner as you never know who may witness poor behavior and how it can affect other’s opinions of you. Being known for your maturity will only win respect for you, no matter your scores, as you advance your riding and showing skills. During breaks in judging, they are very much aware of what’s happening in the warm-up arena and surroundng areas. They are aware of a rider’s position from a distance, if draw/side reins are used on a horse for a false head position, if a horse is being overworked, who is actually warming up the horse, etc. I have personally seen riders at shows hold on to the edge of a ribbon (other than blue) as if the ribbon were infested with disgusting insects then toss the ribbon in the trash. Not quite the behavior of a mature rider! Also, voices can carry quite a distance outdoors. It’s quite amazing what can be heard in a judges booth by those speaking quite a distance away.

    • Learn your test so you don’t have to depend on a reader. Riders, who primarily depend on readers, often “mis-hear” the movement being read due to all the background noises, resulting in an error on the test. Know your test and use a reader for back-up only.

    • Speaking of errors during a test, see the following and preceding bullets.

    • If something bad happens, take it in stride and don’t stress over it! It’s just one test on one day in a lifetime of dressage tests to be ridden! Sooner or later it happens to everyone. At shows I have witnessed the following interfere with rides-- a sudden cloudburst of rain, a squawking parrot at a neighboring house, a bike being thrown over a fence, bikers/walkers/riders coming through the fence, trucks driving by, children screaming, loose horses or dogs, bags/paper blowing across the arena, the scribe having a coughing attack (oooppppsssss... that was me ), a horse suddenly shying at the immobile judges booth he passed by five other times… This list could go on, so just remember that one day something will happen to you and take it all in stride (just like your horse!).

    • If the absolute worst happens and you fall, don’t be embarrassed. The biggest concerns are for your safety, followed by that of your horse. Sure, it happened in front of strangers and not in the comfort of your home stable, but NO ONE thinks any less of you for it happening, especially the judge. There are so many variables at a show that even the most solid, steady horse can get spooked.

  • #2
    Good points.


    • #3
      Thank you for taking the time to give neophytes like me tips. They are helpful!


      • #4
        Very good points. Another one. Smile. You are not going to your death.
        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


        • #5
          That was very helpful: thanks!


          • #6
            thanks for writing this. I think everyone should volunteer to scribe, or better yet EScribe! You see more while escribing, though I know it's not available in lots of places (yet). You will get an entire education in a few hours to see what the judge sees, to hear what they hear, and they will talk between classes. Do not repeat anything, even if she's talking about your best friend!

            Hardly anyone rides a straight center line!

            Hardly anyone rides a proper circle! Crisp and precise geometry matters!

            Hardly anyone used the corners to their advantages! Try to ride deeper after training level. count 3 strides.

            Why are most riders so grim and miserable looking? Lighten up!


            • #7
              Do you smile when you are in the ring, feisomeday?


              • #8
                Bold Jax, thanks for the great post! Two questions, what type of comments did the judges make when a rider/horse combo skipped levels?
                And two, if a horse, truck or whatnot comes thru the fencing into the ring during your test, are you allowed to finish the test without point penalty? Or if the horse spooks, do you get the bell rung at you for going off course?
                Love your horse like it's the last time you'll see him


                • #9
                  if your horse spooks, you do not get rung out for going off course.

                  if something comes thru the arena while you are riding the test, and you go on to finish up, why would you get points off? If your test is disrupted terribly, it's up to the judge to call you a few moves back to pick up the test there, or start over again, or just chalk it up to bad luck.

                  Me personally? No, I do not smile when showing. I am grim as death. I never felt comfortable showing, would barf buckets before and after riding a test. And yes I know it's not curing cancer People told me my nerves would go away the more I showed. This was not true in my case. I don't like to be the center of attention and I don't like competition much, so I don't show now. My horse always took care of me, and we did ok. That was then. I have new horses but now no $$$$, so it's a moot point!

                  shows need scribes and volunteers too! I still recommend scribing to people who show, to get another perspective.


                  • Original Poster

                    The worst one I can remember is when a teen rider who did well at 1st the previous year skipped to 3rd. This was a good kid who rode well, but it was so obvious that neither rider nor horse were anywhere near ready for third. They probably would have struggled at 2nd. The judge wrote very pointed comments in the judge's marks section about the team not being up to this level and another comment relating to a trainer who would allow this. I don't remember the exact comments any longer, but the intent was pretty clear that they should get another trainer if this one didn't realize they shouldn't be at 3rd. It was so ovious and really angered the judge.

                    In the other question-- the truck/bike/person didn't come into the actual arena, but over a fence at the end of the show facility property where the dressage arena was. The fence was less than half the length of the dressage arena from the C end. If it was before the rider entered, we would get the person at the fence to stop, but once a test started, there was nothing we could do. The judges did not mark any rider off course/error, but a spook is still a spook and depending upon how/when it occurred, it could affect the score. Most would comment at the movement to acknowledge what happened, but the score stood.

                    For anyone interested in scribing-- don't get into the battle of the egos to try to scribe for the high level riders and the big shows as there are very few comments that are actually made for these riders. You learn the most by scribing for training, 1st and 2nd. Freestyles are a nightmare to scribe as there is no order to the movements. Desite being told by all the judges that I'm one of the best scribes they worked with, I won't get into the BS it takes to scribe at the big shows. I've scribed for Axel Steiner ("O") a couple of times and the Polish "O" judge. My all time favorite, who was not interested in the next step to "O", is Jane Weatherwax. She moved to N CA and I miss working with her.

                    PM me if anyone will be a new scribe. I put together notes of what I do to make it easier for others. It is very hard to sit there and focus throughout the entire day.


                    • #11
                      Thank you! Great points!
                      I would like to mention one more: When you're done with your test continue to C, thank the judge and then leave the arena!
                      As far as smiling goes, it doesn't work well for me either. I smile when I enter and I smile when I leave the arena. In between I'm too concentrated to remember smiling and must say I don't care for the fake "beauty queen" smile that's pasted on some riders anyways!
                      Hoppe, Hoppe, Reiter...
                      Wenn er faellt dann schreit er...

                      Originally posted by mbm
                      forward is like love - you can never have enough


                      • #12
                        I've heard a judge call that fake smile The G-Force


                        • #13
                          Great points! Especially about the geometry of the figures. I used to ride a horse that had only so-so movement but we used to ride a wicked accurate test. Sometimes we would place higher than much nicer horses that way.

                          A few other things to remember that I've seen:

                          - Make sure your equipment is legal. That means proper bits, no polos, whips, etc. Don't get DQ'd because you don't know the rules! And remember, eventing rules and dressage rules are not all the same.

                          - If you have a bad day, don't take it out on your horse. There's little that's less attractive than watching an angry rider jerk at their horse's mouth, overuse the whip, or otherwise pout.

                          - Don't complain about the judging abilities of the judge while on the show grounds. The judge (or one of their colleagues) is bound to be standing within earshot and it reflects poorly on you. I've seen this happen frequently!

                          - Remember that each dressage test is only a few minutes of your life.
                          Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                          EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                          • #14
                            another couple - every movement is important.
                            Your centerlines are the first and last impression you make and they are
                            'worth' exactly the same as every other non coefficient movement in a
                            test. (Each centerline weighs the same as the line of 2 tempis in the
                            GP test, so a 9 on the centerline and a 5 on the two tempis is exactly
                            the same as a 5 on the centerline and a 9 on the twos!)

                            I really appreciate a rider who tells me their # on the way by.

                            My personal pet peeve (as the reigning queen of first level test 1 judging -
                            I swear I judged two hundred last year) is the proper way to ride the trot
                            serpentine. THERE ARE NO CORNERS IN A SERPENTINE. It is three 20 meter
                            1/2 circles joined on the centerline. There are no corners in circles either.
                            I apologize to my scribes for having to write that so many times.



                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Bold Jax View Post
                              Freestyles are a nightmare to scribe as there is no order to the movements.
                              A few years ago, I was scribing at a two day show with four rings running. The organizer needed two of us to scribe the freestyles at the end of the first day. It turned out that I was the most experienced scribe even though I had never scribed a freestyle before.

                              I love scribing, but I'll be eternally grateful if I never have to scribe a freestyle again. Besides the fact that it was a pain in the butt, I was sad I didn't actually get to watch the tests since I had to be so fixated on the test sheet. Later my friends kept commenting on great movements and asking me what I thought and all I could say was "I didn't get to see it."

                              To make it worse, they held a wine and cheese party for the spectators during the freestyles, so when I did get to look up from writing between tests, all I saw was my friends eating and drinking without me!

                              Last edited by DQLite; Jan. 7, 2008, 11:19 PM. Reason: clarification.


                              • Original Poster

                                thank you!

                                I'm riding in only my third novice test EVER in two weeks on my even MORE novice 5 yr old OTTB... but your comments and thoughts really help and I am learning my test and we are going to give it our best try- we all have to start somewhere! so thank you!


                                • #17
                                  Bold Jax said "• When riding past the judge before entering the arena, politely greet the judge by saying “good morning” and “my number is __”."

                                  I would ammend this to say "If the judge is not busy...". I judge at many shows where the timing is so tight between rides that there is barely enough time for me to write comments. I find it somewhat annoying if a rider speaks to me, when he/she can see that I have my head down, writing at a furious pace on the previous test. I'm more than pleased to exchange greetings, when the occasion allows.
                                  My Equestrian Art Photography page


                                  • #18
                                    I learned at my last show that giggling at a stupid rider mistake won't hurt you.

                                    I managed to insert some flying changes into the canter loops in 1-4, and it was purely rider error... I realized what I'd done right as I did it... I started to snicker, go past my coach, who's laughing, I was still giggling as I passed the judge ("I" judge) who was ALSO trying to contain herself. Needless to say we got nailed on that movement, BUT, the marks on the rest of the test were more forgiving than I had expected, and we got some really nice comments at the end about the horse and rider combo...
                                    (although the judge kindly refrained from pointing out that horse knew what she was doing, and the rider didn't )
                                    "Adulthood? You're playing with ponies. That is, like, every 9 year old girl's dream. Adulthood?? You're rocking the HELL out of grade 6, girl."


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by draftdriver View Post
                                      Bold Jax said "• When riding past the judge before entering the arena, politely greet the judge by saying “good morning” and “my number is __”."

                                      I would ammend this to say "If the judge is not busy...". I judge at many shows where the timing is so tight between rides that there is barely enough time for me to write comments. I find it somewhat annoying if a rider speaks to me, when he/she can see that I have my head down, writing at a furious pace on the previous test. I'm more than pleased to exchange greetings, when the occasion allows.
                                      As I ride by, I say "good morning," my number and test. That's mostly for the scribe, but if the judge looks up and responds, that's just gravy.

                                      At a show last year, my horse got a bug in her ear or something and started shaking her head like crazy. I managed to keep her going and complete the movement and she stopped. We weren't marked down, much to my surprise! At the same show, I went off course for the first time ever and almost went off a second time but fixed it just in time. I basically screwed up the test about as badly as I could. However, I got 7's on my collectives and still got my best score ever!

                                      At a show I scribed at last year, there were two people who were riding at a higher level than they should have. The judge was tsking all the way through, and wrote comments about it...about the objectives of that level, not moving up before you're ready, etc. She was quite irritated.

                                      This is a great thread! I love seeing what other people have learned through experience.
                                      Jennifer Walker
                                      Proud owner of Capt Han Solo+, Arabian stallion http://www.capthansolo.com
                                      Author, freelance writer http://www.authorjennwalker.com


                                      • #20
                                        FWIW, regarding smiling - I am always smiling while in the showring because I am so amused by how quickly things can fall apart OR shock you by being perfect. Either way, I'm laughing inside, therefore, I am smiling. I will admit that I have laughed out loud when horses were bucking or bolting and no one ever rang the bell. I guess they should have?!!
                                        "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.