From Judge to Scribe: Right Words, Right Time - Dressage Today

From Judge to Scribe: Right Words, Right Time

The judge is always searching for an effective way to convey information through her scribe to the rider.
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The judge is always searching for an effective way to convey information through her scribe to the rider.

The judge is always searching for an effective way to convey information through her scribe to the rider.

An online board thread about favorite judge comments caught my eye recently. Some of the comments listed were appreciated because they were so appropriate, or so precisely worded or contained understated humor. I started to think about those that I’d received on my own tests.

I have no doubt about my all-time favorite. It was at the bottom of a First Level test at Regionals 10 years ago, next to the rider score. The judge was a well-known FEI judge. It started out with: “The rider’s seat could be more supple, . . .” (golly, can’t argue with that!). But, then it continued with the golden words: “. . . however, she does a commendable job of staying out of her mare’s way and letting her get on with her job.” It was paired with a very nice rider score.

I have tried to shamelessly plagiarize that comment ever since if the situation in the test at hand calls for it.

There’s one word I would never use as a judge to comment on a test but, gee, I’d like to, if only to see the reaction of my scribe. It’s “glacial.” Picture the slowest of slow free walks. It’s the kind of free walk where I might start humming “A Horse With No Name” (as in “I went through the desert on . . . ”) or “On the Trail” from “The Grand Canyon Suite.” Sadly, my comment to the scribe will be the more appropriate: “Needs energy,” and if you hear soft humming coming from the direction of the judge’s box get ready for that one.

A lot of years ago, a judge friend of mine dictated “turgid” to describe my horse’s free walk. She wouldn’t have used that word if she didn’t know me well, and she realized it would make me laugh. However, I have often wondered if maybe she meant “turbid” rather than “turgid.” Turgid means “bloated,” while turbid means “murky,” or “hazy” or “unclear.” I recall that free walk was a lot closer to just plain slow – hence unclear – than to overblown. Again, turbid is a word I’d like to use because it just sounds interesting, but I never would. For one thing, the scribe would probably ask me how to spell it and, more to the point, it’s unkind. I’ll stick with “unclear.”

Just beware of the dreaded “nice braids” judge comment, which does not mean that you should hire yourself out as a braider to defray your showing expenses (unless, of course, your braids really are lovely). That comment is judgespeak for “I need to say something nice but there just really isn’t anything else I can be cheery about.”

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