While some horses might relish the dressage phase of an event, many others do not—a fact that's well documented by Chronicle staff photographers at major three-days every year. Chronicle bulletin board posters recently shared their favorite comments from judges on that topic.
Several riders reflected on receiving "nice braids" or "nice tail" as the sole comment, and there were a few who'd received "tactfully ridden" after particularly harried tests. Here are some of our other favorite comments...
• On my old Thoroughbred, who had quite the disdain for dressage, I had several interesting comments, usually expressing sympathy.
I think my favorite was in Florida, after he had attempted to run off with me for the entire test. The judge wrote, "In the horse's defense, it is quite difficult to go cross-country in a 20 by 40 ring. Have fun tomorrow!"
—Martha Welsh, Tullahoma, Tenn.
• I was riding A Fine Romance's older brother, Bob—a big, athletic guy with a huge sense of humor. My only hope doing the test was that 1. I wouldn't get bucked off, and 2. He wouldn't jump out.
Bob was pretty good—only a few unscheduled caprioles. I stayed on, and we stayed in the ring. The judge, who was one of the wonderful Polish ex-cavalry officers we were lucky to have back then, wrote, "Exuberant canter depart" to describe one of the caprioles.
Later, the judge came up to me, patted my leg, and said, "This is a WONDERFUL horse, but he is veeeeerrrrrrryyyy bad." I smiled and thanked him.
That described Bob perfectly.
—Gail Parker Rogers, Brantford, Ontario
• "No extra points for tempi changes at this level."
—Seema Sonad, Chadds Ford, Pa., once recevied for a novice-level test
• I think [my favorite comment] was "Geometry wasn't your strong suit in school, was it?" How did she know?
—Emily Brant, Lewistoen, Mont.
• My most memorable [comment] was certainly "I fear for your safety!" The horse is now quite happy to be my whip horse but clearly had no appreciation for the finer points of dressage.
—Kathy Viele, Aiken, S.C.
• I had an off-track Thoroughbred at his first show. This was way back when novice was the unrecognized level!
Well, it was less than a great test. He did a canter pirouette at the first halt. We passaged for our free walk, piaffed at our final halt, and I don't know how many flying changes we did during the test itself in the canter work.
Judges comment: "Either skip the lower levels and go straight to Grand Prix or give him two martinis before you enter the ring again!"
—Peggy Friauf, Fort Worth, Texas
• "If your horse had longer legs, lenghtenings would be easier." Duh. Sorry the 15.1-hand Quarter Horse didn't have long legs.
—Cyndi Kurth, Orange City, Fla.
• I really liked the "Energetic youngster with good potentional" comment I got with my quirky 20+-year-old gelding once.
—Heather Way, Evansville, Wisc.
• I got my [very excited] mare inside the ring, but I think we half-cantered, half-bolted the entire test.
Judge to me: "I don't actually know how to score that test." Me to judge: "Just put me last."
Sure enough, I finished double-clear with a dressage score of 71.
—Deb W., New York