Last week I added another chapter in “Never say,
‘Now I’ve seen it all.’”
I’ve judged something like 30,000 tests at recognized shows in the past 15 years (a rough average of 20 shows a year, two days a weekend, 50 tests a day = 2,000 tests a year, which is pretty typical for a lot of “S” judges). With that level of experience, you’d think there would be no real surprises left when I sit at C. In reality, something new often crops up.
Last weekend it was with a rider I called off course, and she then insisted the movement I specified wasn’t in the test. I’ve never had a rider do that before. Riders usually know what their mistake is pretty quickly after the whistle blows. I’ve also had riders who’ve blanked at the whistle, and sometimes it takes a lot of discussion to get them headed in the right direction. They realize they’ve done something wrong but just can’t quite figure it out, even with help from the judge.
This rider failed to halt at X in First Level Test 3 between the right turn at B and left turn at E. She blew through X, and I wrestled my whistle out of my scarf before she made it past E. She looked terribly perplexed when I called out that she’s forgotten the halt at X and asserted confidently: “That isn’t in the test.”
I had to insist that the halt at X was indeed in that test. This didn’t appear to be a case of nerves or memory loss. She rode well and aplomb. She just wasn’t doing the same movement in that test that everyone else was doing (and had been doing since the new tests came out last December). I was sympathetic to her confusion, but my scribe and I had to regain our composure, alternating between amazement and amusement, as the rider finally carried on in the right direction. This followed a rather prolonged discussion that seemed to be conducted on two different planes.
As a word to the wise, if the judge tells you to do something, and you don’t think it’s the right thing, well just do it. She’s got the test in front of her and you don’t. I learned to avoid this possibility with my own showing by glancing at the test a few minutes before I enter the ring, looking for anomalies like a broken-line free walk, a shoulder-in that starts at S instead of H or a final halt at I or G instead of X. Tests, of course, mostly follow familiar patterns, but each test seems to have a little something different that can turn into a costly error.