Variety is the Spice of Schooling Show Life

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There can be stacks of different tests to bone up on before a schooling show.

There can be stacks of different tests to bone up on before a schooling show.

Where did all these tests come from!?

Last week I judged 70 rides at a schooling show. That was a really full day but it wasn’t the hard part. The interesting challenge was that it included 26 different tests, most of them ones that I don’t often see. There were actually two rings going, and the other ring got just eight different Intro, Training and First Level tests, boring by the standard set in my ring.

I used to think that one big difference between USEF “S” judges like myself, compared with USDF L grads or USEF “r” and “R” judges, wa that the S judges simply had to be comfortable with a wider variety of tests. That is the case at a USEF-recognized show, since I will judge everything from Intro through Grand Prix, and a normal day for me might be anywhere from two to 15 different tests over 50 to 60 rides.

Depending on the organization holding a schooling show, however, I now realize you could see just about anything with the word “dressage” attached, including the “Dressage Trail” tests that I actually wrote for Lendon Gray’s Youth Dressage Festival. When I started doing schooling shows back in the ‘80s, everyone pretty much did the same tests, including eventers: the AHSA tests of Training through Fourth levels. The only FEI tests we saw were the usual suspects of PSG, Int. 1 and GP.

Schooling shows can have such an amazing variety that the L grads who often judge those shows have to be really on their toes. I personally have a working knowledge of about 70 different tests, although I mostly see the same 35 tests at USEF-recognized shows. I go online to check the day sheets in advance of each show to make sure there won’t be anything unusual thrown at me.

Here’s a list of the different tests I judged at last weekend’s schooling show: nine USEF eventing tests, seven USEF dressage tests (all Second Level or above), an FEI-level freestyle, five USEF Western Dressage tests, three USDF Intro tests, and an FEI eventing test. Before lunch I did only five different tests for 35 rides, so there were actually 21 different tests over 35 rides in the afternoon. My scribe (a newbie, by the way) was a hero!

The day before the schooling show last week, I actually boned up on five different sets of rules, including USEF and FEI dressage, USEF and FEI eventing and USEF Western Dressage. For the sake of my sanity, I am thankful that most Western Dressage tests I see now are the USEF ones. Just a few years ago, there were actually four different sets of western dressage tests swirling around out there from four different organizations, adding to the confusion.

Review of the Western rules paid off, by the way: Among the rules for Western Dressage that are different from straight dressage, you can use voice aids, a “pivot” is ok for turns on the haunches or forehand (which can be a full 360 degrees!), you have the choice of one or two hands when riding with a curb, and bucking means elimination.

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