Recently, while at a dressage show, a friend said hello to me as I walking towards the arena. I acknowledged her by saying hello back and she then asked me what was wrong. “Nothing. Why?” I responded back. She proceeded to comment that I looked mad. Hmmmm. This scenario has happened to me more than once. Do I scowl or frown? What is it that makes people think I’m mad? I got curious so I did a little digging. Turns out, there is lots of information on this very topic. It is called Resting Bitch Face or RBF. If you are not familiar with this, read on my riding friend!
If you google “resting bitch face”, you will get an amazing 1,870,000 results! There is even a formal definition in Wikipedia: Resting bitch face, RBF or bitchy resting face is a term for a facial expression (or lack thereof) which unintentionally appears angry, annoyed or irritated. Bingo! I guess I have one since it has happened to me multiple times in various situations. I know at horse shows I get anxious before and during a ride, but RBF. Seriously? I went back and looked at all sorts of photos of me in the show ring. Do I look mad or irritated? Yes, I will agree in most of them I do. However, if anything, I think I look like I’m in pain or constipated. Not angry. I try very hard to have a relaxed facial expression but dressage is hard and you have to concentrate! Especially when your horse has a jackhammer-like trot and you are required to sit ALL of the trot work…..even the extended trot. Blah!
So, back to my RBF. According to the Washington Post, actresses Kristen Stewart and Anna Kendrick are the poster children of resting bitch face.
In my opinion, I do not resemble their expressions at all when I ride. However, I wanted solid evidence of not having it so I did a little more research.
There is actually an app that will analyze your face for RBF. Wow. Leave it to entrepreneurs to jump on this one. Noldus manufactures a FaceReader software to determine your facial expressions. These include neutral, happy, sad, angry, surprised, scared, disgusted and contempt. To test for RBF, you simply snap a photo of your face and click “analyze”. Sounds easy enough. With a few clicks, and a picture I got my results.
Yay! No resting bitch face here! At least when I’m not mounted on a horse in a show arena! But what about my facial expression when I ride? I did some cropping and adjusting of a picture of me in the arena. Resolution too low to analyze. Bummer. So I will just have to accept my lack of RBF! In seriousness, I’m sure when I get nervous I pinch my lips or clench my jaw. Oh well. Something else to work on!
What do judges consider to be a desirable facial expression in the arena? I am fortunate enough to know judges in both USDF and in AQHA. I asked for their opinions on what a desirable facial expression is. Not surprisingly, both were similar. For dressage, the USEF “r” dressage judge likes to see a relaxed, happy expression, especially at the beginning and ending halt. In AQHA events, the judge I asked stated that the competitors desirably should have a relaxed smile as if they are enjoying what they are doing. A frown (RBF, perhaps?) or a big fake smile are both frowned upon. So there you have it. A happy expression but no fake plastered smile. My face hurts just thinking about riding and maintaining that!
So here’s to all of us riders regardless of whether or not we are afflicted with RBF. I’m happy to be on my horse! Who cares if I concentrate too hard? I plan to work on softening my jaw when I ride. After all, that’s what we want from our horses! Happy riding!
Written By, Heather Benedict. Share this on Facebook if you can relate!