The view from the judge’s box

The Illinois Dressage & Combined Training Association is our local USDF GMO (group member organization), and it’s an active group, running clinics, educational events and a robust show series.  This weekend, they offered a scribe clinic, and I attended, hoping to learn more about the judge’s perspective and to get a better idea of what goes into scribing, because I’m planning on getting more involved with the IDCTA.   This clinic was held during a recognized show at Fields & Fences in Gurnee, IL, and Jennifer Kotylo, an L judge, volunteered to lead take the group of potential scribes through their paces.

Scribes sit next to the judge, and capture the judge’s comments and scores for each movement on a dressage test, and they have a tough job.  As I learned, some of the movements come fast and furious during the test, and the scribe ends up scrambling a bit to keep pace with the steady stream of comments coming from the judge.  After an overview of a scribe’s role and responsibilities, the group jumped in, and began scribing for Jennifer, who mock-judged the classes.

So, what’s it like to scribe?  Well, on the one hand, you don’t get to watch very much.  I spent most of the clinic zeroed-in on the blank test forms in front of me, pen hovering at the ready.  Really, the only opportunity to steal a glance at the contestant during the test occurs during walk sequences or longer movements across the diagonal.

We started off scribing for a number of riders doing the Training Level, Test 2, which wasn’t too hard to follow.  But First Level, Test 4 was a different story!  The movements come much more quickly. as horse and rider have to execute specific movements within shorter distances, and when more granular parts of the movement – such as transitions – are scored separately.  The scribe really needs to pay attention!

While there was almost zero opportunity to watch the tests and listen to the  Jennifer’s comments at the same time,  I still picked up some pointers just by listening to her comments.

–  Go for it!   Jennifer mentioned that many movements require good energy and forward thinking riding.  If you don’t ride forward, you’re not going to get the score.  The only way to get the best score is to really ride for it!

–  Genuine quality is important.  A faster gait does not a lengthening make.  A turned head is not a bend.   A dropped head isn’t a true stretch. Listening to Jennifer’s steady stream of comments, from our vantage point that day, many of the weak spots in the rides we observed centered (not surprisingly, this is the hard stuff!) around the quality of the movement at a fundamental level.   I resolved to really pay attention to basics.

Overall, it was a great session, and really de-mystified scribing.  Shows need volunteers.  I’m going to volunteer to scribe at some schooling shows this spring, and who knows, you might see me sitting next to a judge at a recognized show later this summer!
— Guest post authored by Sarah


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