How do you do?

(“It was fun at Training Level but far more entertaining at PSG!”)

Not long ago I judged an intercollegiate dressage competition. In them the kids do not ride their own horses but rather they draw their mounts from a hat and have only a 10 minute warm-up to figure them out before they ride a lower level test. It’s really tough because the horses vary widely in their quality and training, and face it, most of the kids are not so experienced that adjusting to an unfamiliar horse is easy for them. It does, however, make the playing field more level than if the team from one school had much more advanced horses to bring than their counterparts.

Having to ride unfamiliar horses is an interesting notion. It is more so with mature riders who are used to the drill. Over my more than 50 years of riding, I know I’ve been on several thousand horses. While each new one might not (ought not) be an adventure, each should be an interesting exercise in problem-solving.

In the old days you used to see a dressage derby class now and again. In it the top placing riders came back and rode again on each other’s horses. It was fun at Training Level but far more entertaining at PSG!

The coolest jumper class I ever saw was at Aachen in Germany. It was an invitational class with just four competitors – the reigning Olympic champion, the reigning world champion, the reigning European champion, and the current High Point leader of the show. Each rider did a round on all four horses, again with only a 10 minute warm-up which they did in front of the whole crowd. No slackers in that group!

I wish it would happen more often that students would agree to swap horses for a ride or two—or especially a lesson—to broaden their feel and expectations beyond the one horse they usually spend all their time with.