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How to convince my inner "keener" that my scores are OK?

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  • How to convince my inner "keener" that my scores are OK?

    Started riding again after many years in 2010, barn coach was "dressage"y so that's what I did. Did a few walk/trot shows last year and did remarkably well - mid-high 60's, a few 70's - so moved up this year.

    It was a bit premature to show last weekend - I've only recently decided that cantering is not the crazy train of death - but I was off and my daughter was showing.

    So my 4 tests ranged from 54 to 61 (the 61 did get me a first!). Comments were mostly on lack of impulsion, tension and hollowness, and I just messed up a few times. I AM happy that I made it through the show, and I WILL give it another go in June.

    From what I've read, these are acceptable/expected scores for where I'm at. Here's where I'm stuck: I got mostly A's through school. How do I convince my old brain that these percentages are OK? I'd be happy to hear from anyone else who's had trouble getting their head around what's considered a good dressage score!

    This is probably a whole other thread, but any thoughts on how to improve impulsion would also be appreciated. It seems that's the key to everything else. How do you decide when to add a crop or spurs?
    http://essas-storm.blogspot.ca/ An OTTB rescue/project found me!

  • #2
    The scores thing is hard. Just keep telling yourself not to expect so much, and maybe you'll start to believe it? I haven't figured that one out yet, myself.

    Are you taking lessons with a good instructor? If so, that instructor should be able to help you figure out whip/spurs, both based on when you're ready to handle them and your horse.

    As for impulsion... it comes with training. If you're lucky enough to have a horse born with it, you have it from the start. For the rest of us, it comes from teaching the horse to use its core to lift its back, move off the leg properly, start to bend the hind legs and build toward an uphill balance, etc. If you're not riding a naturally very gifted horse, it will take more training and more levels to start getting really good scores when it comes to impulsion. With my horse its as if a switch was flipped over the last couple of weeks - suddenly even when tense his back is still moving, and he still has suspension and push from behind when not at his best. He's suddenly always in front of the leg, always looking to move more. In his case, it's causing new problems as he's overpowering himself and pushing himself BTV as the rest of his tries to learn to catch up with his back end.

    This has been a drastic change over the last two weeks... after two years of correct work and teaching him about using his body. Everyone seems to want to know how to improve impulsion when they start out, and I consistently was told to ride correctly and be patient. I expect it will continue improving for us as we continue moving up levels, but this is the worst test my horse had, his lowest scoring lengthening, with the most tension (not me riding):
    Originally posted by Silverbridge
    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


    • #3
      All the scores do (provided you feel they are accurate) is reflect areas where you need some work and areas where you are doing pretty well already. There is no point in convincing yourself that they are "ok" or "not ok." There is no point in trying to pretend you have no homework to do and the scores should be great!great!great!, or conversely in getting all, "There is no hope, I suck" about it.

      Do your homework where they say you need to do some more homework, and be happy with the positive feedback you got on the good parts.

      Everyone has stuff to work on. If you feel the level was too much of a step up there is no harm in deciding to move back down. If you like the challenge of the higher level there is no harm in plugging your homework and taking another crack at it.

      None of this is "ok" or "not ok." It just is what it is, and your reaction to it determines how useful the experience will be to you.
      The Noodlehttp://tiny.cc/NGKmT&http://tiny.cc/gioSA
      Boy Wonderhttp://tiny.cc/G9290
      The Hana is nuts! NUTS!!http://tinyurl.com/SOCRAZY


      • #4
        Being a competitive type A, I don't even show. I can't go there. I will do schooling shows for a check-in.

        I happen have two gorgeous horses atm, and people have asked me why I bought them if I don't show. Well, I know enough to know what a good dressage horse is, and that's what I want to learn to ride the best I can. I think showing and levels can focus you on a systematic improvement, and it does help in that way, but I DID NOT buy my horses to win ribbons or points. I bought them both because they are what I want to ride. It's turning out that one of them in particular is very talented and ready to move up beyond my level, so my trainer has begun to show him. If he does well, great, but it's gravy.

        The joy of dressage is in what you learn and how it feels to DO it. The comments you got tell you that you haven't learned to get that feel yet. When you do (and with good instruction you WILL), when you feel your horse lift his back and carry you, light and responsive to your hand and leg, it's gonna be such a rush that you won't care about showing, you'll care about finding that feel and helping him get there. That's my take anyway.

        But I understand how the scores get under your skin. Many people are able to keep them in perspective. I know that I can't--and I don't want to change my training or riding just for scores, so personally I choose not to go there.
        Ring the bells that still can ring
        Forget your perfect offering
        There is a crack in everything
        That's how the light gets in.


        • #5
          Do what I do, and just strive to improve! I was REALLY discouraged over the winter at a schooling show where I got a 52% and 47%. I seriously questioned if there was ever any hope for me to bring a horse past Training level, and if I should be riding at all. I was doing my horse an injustice, etc. etc.

          I took a couple of lessons from a trainer I found that I really click with, and went to our first rated show this weekend. My scores were still nothing to really BRAG about, but gosh, they went up 10% from the schooling show scores--61.4% and 57.4%! Hey, I'm improving! That's all we can ask for.

          And like meupatdoes said, just read your test thoroughly, and see what you need to work on and try to do better next time. I'm sure you will!


          • #6
            The only show I have done with my guy a year ago was HUGE for me. I hadn't shown in 15 years and that was in the hunter ring. When I first bought my guy he was a bit difficult emotionally--see a mare, go a little bonkers. Trailering? Forget about it, didn't want to have anything to do with it. My coach is awesome! She helped us over the course of a year get over some major humps. When I decided I wanted to be brave and see what another had to say about my riding, she reminded me what we need to work on (I did) as well as to have a goal that wasn't about the score.....for me it was actually getting the horse to the show as he hated the trailer. Fine, what about the second goal....it was to make it through the tests. And I did both! What a glorious day! My scores didn't go over 59, but I made it to the show and actually rode 2 tests, one went south pretty quick, but I had fun riding it anyway...made the best of it. So I guess, long story short.....have another goal besides getting a good score and have fun doing it :-)


            • #7
              I'm totally prone to overachiever-ness, and a little competitive to boot - but dressage has beaten those tendancies out of me, or at least tried to . It's a good life lesson for me.

              What really helps me is to set a NON-score related, achievable goal for each test. Like, 'I'm not going to get a comment about looking down' or 'I'm going to breathe all the way around my canter circle". It's just important to make it an achievable goal - and then be happy that you achieved it (or at least did a good job trying).

              Also remember that 6=satisfactory. That means you are meeting the demands of the level. That's good enough! Really! Dressage is a very demanding boss/professor, but only because it wants everyone to improve. How boring would it be if it was like gymnastics 20 years ago where the olympics had scores like 9.887 beating 9.879.


              • #8
                What Applecore said- I'm a greenbean at this, and I'm just now doing First level tests on my horse. I pick out 1-2 things I am going to really nail, like the two half ten meter circles at EXB...for some reason my brain is swimmy on that so I have that as a goal for my next show, that I nail that maneuver, and better prep/execution on canter departs. The rest, I'm happy with and will ride to the best of my ability, but those two, I really want to click.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by cada931 View Post
                  So my 4 tests ranged from 54 to 61 (the 61 did get me a first!). Comments were mostly on lack of impulsion, tension and hollowness, and I just messed up a few times. I AM happy that I made it through the show, and I WILL give it another go in June.
                  Lack of impulsion, tension, and hollowness are all inter-related, and the same cause will hinder you in raising your overall score. Focus on getting your horse to raise his back, supple all over, so he can swing more with his backs, which will improve impulsion.

                  Now the good news is, if you improve just this aspect alone, and nothing else, you are likely to see improvement on Every Single Movement by perhapes half point or even one full point, which means, if you are scoring, say 60%, you can expect to see improved score of 65% ~ 70%. That 5 ~10 percent difference in many shows will decide whether you are at the bottom or the top.

                  The bad news is, this fault encompasses the whole spectrum of training and won't be as easy to fix as, say, ride a round true twenty meter circle. There are tons and tons of exercises to help the horse with hollow back but you need good trainers to help you. If possible, find a really good clinician, tell him/her the comments in regard to hollow back/tension/impulsion. My guess is they probably would have known about it the moment you walk in the ring. They can help you to develop a plan. And then do what they ask you to do, regardless how weird or senseless they might seem at the first glance, even if that mean you have to ride endless circles forever (don't be surprised if that is exactly what you are asked to do lol).
                  Last edited by Gloria; May. 7, 2012, 05:01 PM.


                  • #10
                    I have a 15 y/o foundation Paint mare who was most definitely NOT bred to win at dressage shows. We got decent enough scores in Intro. - ended our Intro. days with a low to mid-60s average. We moved up to Training Level, but have struggled even getting a single score of 60%. Most of the time we're in the mid-50s. Rather than get discouraged, I try to focus on one or two elements or a collective mark where we have showed improvement. For example, my highest score always is my collective rider seat and position. I can certainly feel good about that. This year, our halts and canter transitions have also improved.


                    • #11
                      Hang in there. When I told my SO I received a 64 on my test, he said "gosh, a D-". I got very huffy and explained it's not the same scoring!


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by lawchick View Post
                        Hang in there. When I told my SO I received a 64 on my test, he said "gosh, a D-". I got very huffy and explained it's not the same scoring!
                        I know, it IS a different scale!

                        I tend to want to be perfect NOW, so dressage is very good for me.

                        I didn't expect to feel that disappointed, I really do show for the feedback and improving myself. I gave us today off and now I'm ready to get back to work with some new direction. I will definitely refer to the judge's comments in my lessons.

                        Thank you all for the encouragement that patience will be rewarded. I have a 15 year old OTTB gelding and we're learning together, so I really don't have a timeline. I'm still amazed that I have the opportunity to do all of this now and I love it.
                        Last edited by cada931; May. 8, 2012, 08:27 AM.
                        http://essas-storm.blogspot.ca/ An OTTB rescue/project found me!


                        • #13
                          Making sense of scores

                          I am a professional trainer first and a horse show participant second. I can tell you that it is very difficult to make sense of your scores sometimes. For a long time I regarded a 60-65% score as not such a good score but then it dawned on me that my thinking was wrong. In school we are graded on a scale of 0-100% so naturally if I walked out of the ring with a 60% i wouldn't feel good about the score as a 60% in school is an F. If I walked out of the ring with some of my young horses with a 70 or 74% I was thrilled because it won the class and it also puts you up in that high performance catagory. However, if I look at my 70% through my "school grades" glasses, a 70% is still a D at best. So.....my thinking was conflicted here until I realized that each movement in your test is judged on a 0-10 scale meaning that if you walk out with a 60% you mostly got 6's in your test or if you got a 70%, 7's. Look up what the scores mean and you will understand that if you got a 60% you mostly got 6's and that a 6 on your score sheet means satifactory and a 7 means fairly good. When you are riding for a 6 or a 7 in a test its not perfect but the judge is telling you that you are doing the movement correctly. If you are scoring a 5 on a movement you are "sufficient". To get into the 8 catagory the horse has to show the movement correctly with a degree of extra quality and expression. We all want to see 8's on our score sheets but we have to realize that we don't always get to own or ride a horse that has the ability to perform the movements with that little extra flair of expression. That is perfectly ok if the horse just doesn't have expression. What matters is that you ride and show your horse to the very best of your ability and for the best quality you can get from the horse on that day. If your horse is at best a 6 or 7 or even a 5 kind of quality horse then be happy when you ride to the top end of your horses and your ability. If a six is all he can muster up in the free walk then for him its an "A" because he did his best for you. I have horses that consistently walk out of the ring in the 70's and sometimes I am not happy with the ride because I know I could have done better or that the horse was not with me in the test and that I got the scores largely on their expressive movement. Other times I walk out of the ring with a 60% and am very proud because I know that is all the horse can give me given his quality. In the end you have to know what kind of quality you are sitting on and interperate your scores in light of whether your horse is giving you his all for his skill level. Another thing to look at is the qualifying scores needed to earn your performance medals and for qualifying to compete a regionals. Yes these are minimal requirements but if a 60% is good enough to earn your Bronze medal at 1st 2nd and 3rd levels in recognized competition, then a 60% is not a terrible score. Maybe in school its an F but in this sport it will earn you a nice shinny medal! Keep showing and be proud of your scores.
                          Last edited by cedressagehorses; May. 10, 2012, 12:26 AM. Reason: spelling


                          • Original Poster

                            Originally posted by cedressagehorses View Post
                            We all want to see 8's on our score sheets but we have to realize that we don't always get to own or ride a horse that has the ability to perform the movements with that little extra flair of expression...What matters is that you ride and show your horse to the very best of your ability and for the best quality you can get from the horse on that day. If your horse is at best a 6 or 7 or even a 5 kind of quality horse then be happy when you ride to the top end of your horses and your ability. If a six is all he can muster up in the free walk then for him its an "A" because he did his best for you.
                            Thank you! This is really the perspective I should have, and I will remember to look at my scores this way from now on.

                            The judge also said we were a handsome, well-matched team so that's a good place to be. The comments have focused my attention on recognizing when I have impulsion (and when I don't) Had a great ride yesterday with music, lots of long and low - helps get me moving so I can get him moving!

                            Me and my "handsome slug"
                            http://essas-storm.blogspot.ca/ An OTTB rescue/project found me!


                            • #15
                              I think the best way to go is to look at it as a learning experience. Read the test thoroughly and examine what really went wrong. Talk to your trainer and ask that she/he be clear in what needs improvement to achieve a higher score. Most horses are capable of scoring well at Training level, but the standards for each movement are higher than they were at Intro. Make sure you read the purpose at the top of each test, and the directives next to each movement. These are the guidelines by which each movement is judged, with the most important ones first. You will find that things like correct balance are often at the top of the list. Then tell your trainer you want to work on these things, and hopefully you will see higher scores.

                              I will assure you, getting a low score is incredibly difficult. But we all get them at some point, whether we want to talk about it or not. You should read an article that Jan Ebeling wrote for Dressage Today a few months back about what getting a low score in a big show taught him. It's common to blame the horse, blame the show grounds, blame the footing (this is a favorite among dressage riders), but in the end, it's what you do with the information that counts.


                              • #16
                                I understand - I've been trying to break out of the high 50s in Training Level for the past year. Thankfully the comments I'm getting now are different than last year and if I would just THINK when I ride, well, I think at the next show I can do it.

                                It might soothe your soul to read about truly low scores...


                                plus a good chuckle at folks stories should help as well.

                                Good luck!