I was a demo rider for Part 1 – Session B, USDF “L” Program two weekends ago. This is how it went down…
I was scheduled as the last rider to go on Saturday (5:00pm). Saturday morning I was awake and in full swing by 7:00 am, checking in participants and helping set up the audio/visual stuff for the lecture portion. At 1:00, the program moved to the barn for the demo rides. I had 18 gift baskets to hand out and not a clue who was riding. Ha!
I tacked up 40 minutes before our ride, and headed out to warm up, but after just a couple of minutes I was told it was my turn to go. Eek!
We slid into the indoor arena while the L participants finished critiquing the previous rider. After a few minutes, the presenter said they were ready. My hands shook. I took a deep breath. Ava was tense, and leery of the mass of squirming bodies at C.
We entered at A….
The test went great. Ava was fluid and happily swinging beneath me. Our trot lengthens were much improved over the last show, and I was very proud of how much more balanced she was. When we came around the corner to C for our stretchy trot circle, Ava caught a look at the huddled mass of bodies on the bleachers a foot from us and spooked. However, she came right back after a couple of strides and did a very nice stretch with an even tempo.
I was most concerned about the canter work, but Ava came through with flying colors. Our only mistake during the test was the last canter serpentine. I got off balance and Ava flipped leads in front. But she let me rebalance her immediately and pick up the canter again with just a few strides.
When we finished, the L participants were asked what they scored us. One guy gave us a 70%, but the presenter said he was way too generous. 😦 The average score from most of the participants was low to mid 60’s. That’s about what I’ve been getting at the shows. The participants then shared their critiques of each individual movement. I was pretty devastated that everyone said we showed no lengthen.
It was hard listening to the group as each L participant voiced their criticism of my test. I stood there and listened for what seemed like forever as they picked apart every single movement. I wanted to leave… It’s not like it wasn’t true (what they were saying), but normally you get that on a test sheet, not broadcasted to 50+ people who ride/train dressage.
After they finished, and let me go, I untacked Ava and sat on a bale of hay trying to compose myself. I knew they were going to be harsh, but ouch, just ouch…
After a bit, my trainer came by, and as she was feeding Ava some carrots she said that Marilyn had scored me at a 63%. An international, FEI level judge gave me a 63% score! I know it doesn’t seem that great, but I’m really darn proud of that score. 🙂
Moral of story: Being a demo rider for the L program requires thick skin, and an ability to take criticism well. I admire the other demo riders. It took guts to put themselves out there, for no pay, all so our future judges can learn to be good judges.