Sorry for the slight vent/rant over the past two posts; I needed it! I'm still super bummed with the way the show went, but am ready to get back up, dust myself off, and keep on moving forward. While I do think the judging was pretty whack, from watching the tape a few more times and trying to read between the generally unhelpful comments on my score sheets, there are some definite points of improvement to take away for next time.
Homework from Hossmoor:
BEND, BEND, BEND: One comment that came up a lot was "insufficient bend." I think this could be the source of the judge's insistence that Ringo was 'hollow' throughout. He definitely feels like he is bending beautifully for the most part when I ride him, but I think I need to exaggerate his suppleness even more to get it across to the judge. In both my half passes, for example, I started out with a nice bend, but sort of faded in the last few strides, so that the bend change when I got back on the rail wasn't super clear. The whole movement didn't actually lack bend, but for a judge looking for a nice crisp and obvious change of bend when I completed the movement it wasn't enough. The same goes for the shoulder in.
CONSERVATIVE COUNTS: My medium and extended gaits at both trot and canter suffered from me trying to go for broke, and then failing. In all cases, I would have benefited from a more conservative approach; I should keep schooling the really extravagant movements so that, with time, they'll become the norm, but in the meantime it is probably a wiser strategy to err on the side of safe and perfectly executed rather than bold and flubbed.
KNOW THY TEST: One of the things that really peeved me was the fact that the judge penalized me twice for making the same error without notifying me (which is not proper judging procedure). The easiest solution? REMEMBER THE TEST IN THE FIRST PLACE! The judge should have responded differently, but it wouldn't have been a problem at all if I had just circled in the correct place. I was banking on the ability to look my test up online on my phone one last time before I got on, only to find out that there was absolutely no service on the show grounds. Lesson learned: a paper copy will be coming with me to the next show!
OLYMPIANS DON'T WOBBLE: I was pretty darn put out by my rider score and think it was too harsh, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to improve in my position. I'm excited to keep up with my Western lessons, as I think they're really going to encourage the sort of lower core strength and stability that I need to sit deeply in the saddle without wobbling. Additionally, I tend to absorb a lot of movement into my leg, meaning that my lower leg bumps in rhythm to Ringo's trot. I asked Brian about this and he said it's normal, but my legs are so long, especially on Ringo's smaller barrel, such that it's really noticeable. I know dressage riders wear very stiff boots to make their lower leg look stiller; those aren't in the cards for me at the moment, so I'll just have to get even stronger in order to present a more controlled, not-floppy picture to the judge.
So, a lot to work on! I feel so much better now that I've got somewhere constructive to move forward from; last night when I was very upset the show just felt like a total bust, and now it's not because I can use it to become better going forward.
I'm also going to try to build Ringo's fitness so that a second test isn't as unrealistic in the future as it was this weekend. I've been toying with the idea of trying to get into a show in Sacramento next weekend just to try to get that last Bronze medal score that I want sooooo badly, but I'm not decided yet. If not, my next show is only a month away, which will certainly fly given the speed at which this spring has progressed so far.