Just Whose Facts, Ma’am?

(“Her instructor purrs, ‘Beautiful!’ every time she goes by.”) 

You’ve heard Daniel Patrick Moynahan‘s line: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own set of facts.” That should always apply when we evaluate dressage performances. The complication is that in our sport much of what we value, whether as judges or spectators, is an opinion!

However, there is one distinction we should be able to make. Whether we like something or not is flat out opinion. We may arrive at that judgment independently from within, or it may be based on values which we have come to accept as norms. For instance “I really like that horse’s energy level and elasticity!”

That is a whole separate topic from determining if the horse IS energetic or if his movement IS elastic. Within an agreed-upon range, those and many other qualities are definable and quantifiable. They are as close as we can come in the dressage world to FACTS.

Other times I have written about objective versus relative “good.” In the competition arena an “8” equals good. If the comment in a block says “good marching walk” and the score is 5.5, something is amiss! Meanwhile if a horse has had a major meltdown and his novice rider has managed to survive, a “good job” comment might not be at all out of place.

There are some words or phrases which I reserve for when they are truly accurate and appropriate. I roll my eyes in the warm-up arena if I see a novice trotting around counterflexed and with her horse’s head in the air as her instructor purrs, “Beautiful!” every time she goes by. In short there are many kinds of encouragement which don’t have to bend reality to the breaking point.