Peanut butter? No, in this case PB stands for personal best. Once again I want to
revisit the notion of why we go showing and what we get out of it. For a certain group
dressage IS showing, and showing means trying to win. For the moment we’ll set aside
the pathologies that develop when this segment of one’s character is taken to an
extreme. Other people show as much for the camaraderie they share with their
barnmates on a weekend of play and an escape from “real life.”
Just as valid a raison is for a rider whose life is filled with distractions to focus her
training on an attainable short-term goal. Those of us whose inner direction can be
swayed by a miserably hot summer morning can better muster the gumption to go ride if
we know we have an appointment with the judge in two weeks!
So with all that as backstory, how should you interpret the fruits of your efforts?
Remember what winning a class means. On that particular day one person’s opinion
(the judge) thought your ride was better than whatever other ones turned up in the
arena in front of her. Maybe. I say that because when a ribbon is decided by a point or
two– just a particle of a percentage point–the vagaries of movement by movement
scoring may reward someone other than the judge’s favorite with the blue ribbon.
So if the yardstick is not whom you beat, should it be “have you improved your
score since the last time?” That brings up the ugly side of point chasing and soft judge
stalking. Not naming names but a 60% from Gary Rockwell may mean more than a 65%
from Dr. Chopra—even though the 65 looks flashier on centerlinescores.com.
It all comes down to whom you believe. The judge? Your coach? Your mother (oh,
please)? Or even yourself? The reason we have those first several options is that none
of us can universally trust our own judgment to be accurate and impartial. And yet
mindful of “the journey” and not just the destination, I can applaud the trainer whose
post show take-away was that her formerly nervous horse spent the show weekend with
a placid eye, cheerfully grazing as he awaited his next trip into the arena. It’s about
keeping your priorities straight.