We are back from the NEDA Spring Dressage Show.   As a key season opening event for 2009, this show attracts both the top professional riders of the area as well as amateurs and grassroots riders.   And, as long as Mother Nature cooperates, it is a very good show.
Jeddien and I only contested two classes.   We won one with a score of 63.75%, and came second in another with a score of 60.9%.
Reflecting on this, one might think I must be most pleased about the win with 63.75%.   However, this is dressage....
When a rider competes in a dressage test, the scores they earn are an assessment of the work they presented to a judge on that day.   When the rider competes over and over within the same level, over time they will soon have a collection of judged dressage test sheets.   Spreading these out on the kitchen table, a rider will most likely notice a pattern in the feedback and be able to identify their dressage training strengths and weaknesses.   Looking at the tests as a history of the horse's progress, the rider will hopefully also notice that skill areas which were once weaker improved with time and training.
From this perspective, when competing in a dressage show, it is the score that will make the rider smile, not the ribbon.   For example, after consistently receiving scores in the 50's, the first 60% score is a milestone worth celebrating...   Even without placing in the class.
There will always be better riders with nicer horses.   When they show up, oh well.   When that happens, the smart competitor rides with the goal of improving upon their own scores and gracefully accepts whether a ribbon comes with it or not.
Qualification as the Goal
However, dressage is also a competitive sport with Championships, trophies, cash awards, and of course, recognition.
Under the rules of British Dressage, a horse & rider need to WIN a class AND get a certain score to qualify for the Regional Championships.   In the USA, it is only the score that matters.   For each level in the USA, and depending on the rider's status (Open/Professional, Amateur, Junior Rider/Young Rider), there are various minimum qualifying scores.
For me (Open/Professional) riding Piper Warrior at Training Level, we need to earn hefty 68% scores to qualify.   At 1st Level, our target is 66%.   2nd Level, 64%.
The placing doesn't matter.   So, if the better rider with the nicer horse does end up in the same class, a competitor can still qualify as long as they get their score.
Ribbons vs Scores
Yesterday, Jeddien won the USDF Freestyle Class, earned a nice blue ribbon and a trophy, but we went home with a non qualifying score.   This was a huge disappointment, especially after earning the first half of the qualification with a lovely 70% a few weeks ago.
Jeddien came 2nd in the Fourth Level Test 1 class (3rd overall) with a score of 60.9%.   Quite a few 7's and 8's graced the test sheet as well as a couple 4's.   The collective marks of 6656 pulled her score down a bit.   But overall, considering it was the first ride of the day after a 4am start and a 2.5 hour road trip, and considering that both horse and rider were not yet energized and in sync, THAT is the score I'm smiling about today.
It's about the scores.   Sure, the ribbons are nice, too.   :-)