Gone Fishin’

(“. . . each movement would be written on a slip of paper and put in a fishbowl . . .”)

So what’s the point of a dressage test? Since it’s a competition, obviously the “who’s the best” answer carries a lot of weight. Additionally, because of the progressive nature of the levels, working your way through the tests provides a structure to your training. And within an individual test, the arrangement of the pattern and the relationships among the movements are also designed to give the rider insights into how to school at home.
Beyond all that, showing is supposed to be fun! Isn’t that what the freestyle is supposed to be about after all? So here’s a thought for you—not a substitute for the regular competition but perhaps something that would be fun to do at a schooling show if you could convince enough riders to take part.

A precondition would be that everyone participating would feel able to perform all the requirements of a given level. Then each movement would be written on a slip of paper and put in a fishbowl on the judge’s table. After the initial halt and salute, the judge would pull a slip out and announce the first movement to be shown—a medium trot, for instance. The rider would be granted 10 or 15 seconds to position his horse to begin and another 20 seconds to perform it. As time was expiring, the judge would dig into the bowl again and announce the next movement to be shown. Each one would be scored by the normal standard with the transition out of the last movement and into the new one included in the block.

The whole “test” could require 12 or 15 separate but fluidly connected displays. In a certain way it wouldn’t really be “fair” because not every rider would do all the same movements. The luck of the draw would favor or penalize one or another competitor. But as Jimmy Carter pointed out to us all: “Life isn’t fair.”

As you know from my vending machine analogy, it’s my position that a well-trained horse should be able to do any movement you ask in any order and at any time you  ask. This little game would cause riders to hone that skill, and I’ll bet it would keep the spectators involved and interested.

Once this catches on, you can imagine the bigger shows hiring a voluptuous assistant to pluck the movement-labeled ping pong balls out a borrowed air-mix Lotto jackpot machine to hand to the judge.