I think the hardest part of a dressage judge’s job (well, after travel issues) is dealing with weather. It may not seem so tough to the riders – after all they are out in the wet and rain while the judges at least have a tent. The problem is that it often is just a tent and pretty much everything under that tent has something to do with paper. If it’s windy, the paper won’t stay put and if it’s rainy, well ball-point pens don’t work well under water.
This won’t mean much to those of you up to your stifles in snow right now, but judging at the first 2016 Global Dressage Festival show last week in Florida had its exciting moments. Two of the four days had tornado warnings. (At one point, I was trying to explain the difference between a tornado and a hurricane to an official from England where, apparently, they don’t deal with such things.) On Friday, the afternoon was cancelled and the CDI GP Freestyle was moved to Saturday.
On Sunday, we started at 10 after waiting a couple hours to see if the line of tornados would slide out to sea. It did but we were left with steady winds and gusts over 20 mph. The riders seemed to handle the wind just fine – and Global’s ground crew has to be commended for its ability to lash down tents, rings and sponsor signs securely in really lousy conditions, not to mention how well the footing held up after all the rain. With all the ropes slapping around me and the winds assaulting us, I felt like I was in a sailboat all day, only without getting seasick.
My scribe and I fought the winds with painted horse shoes provided by the show plus anything else at hand – cell phones (turned off), purses, my judge bell. Our bodies were pretty much held in a perpetual crouch over the tests so they wouldn’t waft away. My traveling paperweight Charley the Horse (you met him in an earlier blog) failed me a couple times, the first time that’s ever happened since he joined me in my travels at a Colorado show 15 years ago. (They can have really windy afternoons in Colorado).
If I just stayed home I wouldn’t have to deal with tornadoes. I was really taken aback when I arrived at the Oklahoma City airport last April, and the first thing that the nice lady picking me up did was to put two tornado apps on my phone. We needed them then, and I put them to good use again last week in Florida. I ducked a line of tornadoes once in a Mason City, IA, show, but the worst was at Conyers, GA, when tornadoes missed us but dumped so much hail that the show had to be cancelled due to ice – in 70-degree weather!