Riding a “clean” test without a reader–good!
Riding a clean test with a reader—nearly as good.
Riding a test without a reader and making an error—It happens. It’s part of the learning process.
Making errors in a test that’s being read to you—all the more reason to pack a corkscrew whenever you go showing!
I’m totally in favor of being able to ride tests without the help of a reader. An FEI test, a championship, a freestyle—you have no choice anyway. But if you’re new to the sport or worried that your mind may go blank as you head down the centerline, what’s the harm? As has been said elsewhere, “It’s a riding test, not a memorization test!”
A couple of thoughts if you do choose to go with a reader: That doesn’t relieve you from knowing the test frontwards, backwards, and sideways. The words from your reader should be reassuring confirmations, not surprises!
If you’re going to have one, practice with him or her. Make sure they’re loud enough and that they know when to feed you the next movement. Too late does you no good at all. Too early just distracts and confuses you. A good reader never leaves you wondering what’s supposed to happen next and gives you just the time you need to get set up for the next movement or sequence.
One other note–Sometimes an anxious horse will relax and go better if he hears a familiar voice at ringside. One bit of warning: a fellow coach told me she had to be very careful not to rustle the test sheet when reading for a certain horse. If he heard the paper crinkle as he went by B or E, he always wanted to stop there expecting a peppermint!