Demo Demons

(“Please, God, let them already know what I’m talking about!”)

Think of various group activities that require demonstration riders and horses – the so-called guinea pigs of the world. Judges forums and various seminars/symposiums come to mind. What they all have in common is that for the most part no one’s happy about who is chosen or how they are treated.

 In a symposium scenario the clinician most hopes for horses and riders which will let him demonstrate principles he wants to get across to his audience. The riders must be knowledgeable enough and the horses talented enough to be primarily correct and at the same time able to show some improvement. When the organizer is providing the demos and presents them to the clinician on the morning of the event, he’s thinking “Please, God, let them already know what I’m talking about! Or at the very least, don’t let them argue with me!” Some demo horse/riders would make good long-term projects, but the chance of making meaningful, visible changes in 45 minutes is nil. Not a big audience pleaser!

It’s less of an issue at a judges forum. We judge what we see. We have less responsibility to fix it. At the same time we hope for some demos who can show the movements correctly and be worthy of good scores. Spending the day parsing 5.5’s versus sixes is not all that illuminating.   

 Auditors are almost never happy with the demos. Back in the day at the old national symposia or more recently at the trainers conferences in Wellington, talented pairs are usually selected to participate, the premise being that you can’t really understand the range of scoring if you’ve never seen any really good ones. Historically this has evoked grumbles from the auditors who observe “Of course these horses go well but they are not like anything we work with at home.” One year to try to meet that criticism, we recruited demos from a more general riding population, only to be met with the refrain, “Why would we come all this way to see horses like the ones at home?” (please refer to Rick Nelson at his MSG concert)

 And then there is how the demos themselves react. At one extreme if you lavish them with only praise, they complain they haven’t learned anything. On the other hand, speak the truth and risk none of them ever coming back. “All this abuse for a damn T-shirt!” they mutter. “I coulda stood in bed!” Somewhere there’s a middle ground. The trick is finding it.