Confessions Of A Dressage Scribe

confessions of a dressage scribeI have to admit I was a bit nervous at the idea of scribing at a dressage show. What if I can’t keep up? What if I get lost in the test? What if I miss a comment or score? What if I can’t understand him or her? It seems intimidating to sit with THE JUDGE of the show. However, they are just human like we are. They are grateful that someone volunteered to sit with them for what can be a very long day with few breaks. Every one of the judges I have sat with has been professional and helpful. And I have learned more than I ever thought was possible just from sitting, watching and listening.

Most judges don’t seem like their agenda is to ruin anyone’s day by giving a low score. My experience has been that they most often give the benefit of the doubt and try to be fair. Let’s be honest, trying to get an animal (with its own thoughts and feelings and a strong sense of “fight or flight”) to do precise movements can be difficult. You never know until you pick up the reins what kind of ride you are going to have. The judges know this as they themselves had to be riders first before they became a judge.

Error of test or going off-course, is my personal pet peeve and I’m not a judge! Yes, we all get nervous and make mistakes. It happens. However, riders don’t need to be rude. If the judge blows the whistle or rings the bell to signal an error, stop your horse and wait for the judge to give instructions. If you have a reader, do not speak to him or her. Thank the judge and proceed with whatever movement in the test the judge told you to do. The reader should also listen to the judge and not speak to the rider. Also, remember to thank the judge after the final salute. It shows appreciation and respect.

Many riders have asked me what the judge is looking for. Put simply, they are looking for harmony between the horse and rider. Additionally, read the “Directive Ideas” box for each movement within the test. These are written there so you know what the score for the movement is based upon.

Every dressage rider should scribe at least once. Prior to scribing, visit the USDF.org website. There is a “Guide for Scribes” which is extremely helpful. It provides a list of abbreviations for frequently used words, and provides a great overview of the duties and expectations of the scribe. There are two “rules” that I always remind myself of. First, don’t talk to the judge about the horse and rider. If you know them, great. But keep it to yourself. Also, any conversation initiated by the judge remains in the booth. Second, if the judge leaves the booth, never allow a horse and rider to enter the ring. They cannot enter until the judge is present.

I have had my own tense moments during scribing. I recommend testing out all the pens. Once I went through 4 at the start of the test until I found one that worked! Amazingly, I kept up with the scoring and comments! Whew! The judge even remarked. I also once had a terrible time understanding one particular comment by a judge. A strong accent made it difficult for me to discern “triangular halt”. She was very kind about it and later in the day, I knew exactly what she said when she used it again! Each time it seems there will be something new. Always take it in stride. The judge won’t eat you!

Scribing during a show can make for a long day. However, if you like meeting new people and learning more about dressage, give it a try. And remember, volunteers are always appreciated!

Written By, Heather Benedict. Share this on Facebook if you’d love to scribe at a Dressage show!

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