Lendon Gray’s Report on Day 1 of North American Junior/Young Rider Championships

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Molly Eastridge and Donnerspiel from U.S. Region 6. © 2011 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

It’s been fun to watch today (as long as you enjoy the continuous rivulets of sweat running down your back). In the main stadium where the World Equestrian Games dressage was held there are two arenas–one with Juniors and one with Young Riders going at the same time.

So here are my thoughts:

Pet peeves–Riders who ride like they are more important than anyone else in the warm-up ring–riding blind to others, walking on the track, stopping perpendicular to the track to talk or take off boots.

Poor rein backs, although there were many that were much better than at WEG last year. My theory–we simply don’t school them enough. If we (me included) paid as much attention to rein back schooling on a day-to-day basis as we do to shoulder in and canter half passes they would be super.

Horses ridden entirely on the curb with tongues bulging and mouths open. Good news. I think there are fewer this year. But then these kids see so much of this from their role models…

Riders who waterski in extended trot

Not having a day sheet. And having to walk all the way to the hunter show to get food.

Riders sulking because they didn’t do as well as they hoped.

What I love – entrances to halt and forward to trot exuding confidence (even when the rider’s stomach is filled with butterflies or vultures).

Riders who are truly loving their horses, not loudly just for show, but quietly behind the scenes, or with a little quiet pat during the test.

Marzipan from Canada in his 7th NAJYRC (according to the announcer) and he has won several medals for his riders.

Riding in polo shirts. Riders were told in advance that they would not be allowed to ride with coats (I remember in Illinois when coats were waived and riders still rode with coats and too many passed out). The management had to get special permission from the FEI!?! All riders wore polo shirts, usually with their team insignia. For me the nicest looking were those with dark blue ones. Some also wore very nice looking cooling vests. They looked very professional and neat. Is there really a good reason why riders still have to wear black coats? Yes, tradition is great, but maybe it’s time to consider modernizing.

Top hats now stick out as the unusual hat of choice, helmets are the norm. One unfortunate rider had to change at the last minute to a top hat because her helmet had too much bling. Now I am a firm believer in looking professional, but how much bling is too much bling. I dunno. Personally, I like that a rider can show a bit of his/her personality; do we have to be so stodgy? But then again let’s don’t blind the judges. They have a hard enough job.

Of course, I love horses and riders doing a lovely business-like ride with elasticity and self carriage and both coming out of the ring looking proud of themselves. But even more I appreciate and respect riders with horses who may not move so great, are a bit creaky, or maybe not quite correctly through who ride well, do an accurate test knowing they can’t get a super score, but they squeeze every point possible out of their test.

Who I have sympathy for (for whom I have sympathy?): Juniors whose horses aren’t confirmed in their flying changes. There was such a variety of flying changes – from running to bucking to very determinedly changing early in front to forgetting entirely that they are supposed to change their hind legs. It is so difficult for a rider who doesn’t know how to do changes to learn to do them on a horse who is not confirmed. Fixing poor changes is truly a job for an experienced professional. Those are lucky riders whose horses do really good changes.

Judges – probably I should put this in VERY fine print! It’s always interesting at these championships, because for some reason judges have to judge a rider several times to come to agreement about their score range. I have had them tell me this and I have read it. At these champs we usually have some judges we don’t see very often. There are judges from Argentina, Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Great Britain, and the U.S. this year. In no way am I suggesting any of them are not excellent judges–they should be, to be approved by the FEI to be international judges. And they sat in ridiculous heat, one got stung by a hornet. But… ranges from 61 – 71 and 71 – 59 probably isn’t great. However I tend not to look at scores because if judge A basically gives 6’s and judge B mostly gives 7’s not such a big deal, but it will finish with a 10 percentage point difference. However if Judge A gives an 8 when Judge B gives a four and Judge A gives a 4 when Judge B gives an 8 something’s very wrong, even though they will end up with the same final score. I look at placings. So when a rider places 1, 2, 2, 9, 10 I’m a bit concerned, 8, 11, 18, 18, 28, or 1, 1, 1, 3, 33. And the interesting part is, I bet the scores will be closer together tomorrow. But, let me tell you I would not be a judge for anything. I cannot imagine how difficult that job is. I occasionally judge little schooling shows and find it impossible to be consistent over an entire day and constantly second guess myself about the scores I gave for that walk-trot test. All I ask of the judges is that they judge what they see and that they see the qualities of the test before them and not judge the horse’s name or previous performance, the rider’s name or previous performance, or make it a beauty contest.

So tomorrow (Thursday) is supposed to be hotter (97F-36C Wednesday) and more humid. Oh joy!?!