So I do a lot of scribing for dressage shows. The whole goal when I started out scribing was to learn: learn what judges look for, learn about building blocks for success, see some good rides and some bad and learn the difference, et cetera. I think I'm in a constant state of success in achieving that goal. Every show or informal Test of Choice night I scribe, I learn something. Whether it's about judges' expectations or showing technique, whatever I learn is invariably valuable.
Some things I learned at the regional championships this last weekend:
* Basics matter. It doesn't matter if you're doing Grand Prix -- if your walk rhythm gets off and starts to look like a pace, you're not going to get a good score. Rhythm is one of the very most basic parts of the Training Scale, and basics matter as much or more at high levels as they do at low levels.
* Every level is hard, when that's the level you're legitimately at. Even at Grand Prix, you need to be doing the movements well. Sure, you have a piaffe, but is it a good piaffe? The point of this is that every level is hard, when that's the level you're at. This is something I think I knew but am just now really internalizing.
* Relax. Breathe. It's really, truly okay. You'll have a better test and a better score if you just ... ride. Without stressing. This is something that I think will take my entire lifetime to understand at a gut level and put into action. It might also take some Ativan for a while ... ;)
* Really use your time well when you're circling the arena, waiting for your bell. Don't just wander or do funny little figure 8s. Establish a good, strong trot or canter rhythm. Halt. Check out the judges' booth; greet the judge (or the scribe, if the judge is busy writing). Make this a focused preparation time. It's like the cars on a rollercoaster going click-click-click-ENERGETIC-PAUSE up to the top before swooping into the free motion of the ride.
* Shoot for consistent 7s, and then ride your best from there. That seems to be how you get 8s and 9s -- by being consistently good and then having even better moments. If you're all focused on getting 8s, it seems to really rush and push the ride, and the ride starts to fall apart and not be smooth any more.
* Understand your test. Understand not only the directives for each movement, what the judge is actually grading on, but also what the judge isn't grading. This is something MT talks about at TOC nights: he only scores the movements listed, rather than what happens in between. If your rhythm bobbles a bit between movements, get it back then. Don't wait until the next movement, because it'll reflect negatively in your score. This is really critical, I think -- it's the difference between memorizing the movements of a test and really understanding the goals of the test. I think it'll be worth it for me to talk to MT about tests well in advance of riding them, study it from this point of view before I focus hard on remembering the moves. I also suspect that remembering the test will be easier when I understand it completely.
That's the point of view of a Training-level rider scribing through Grand Prix, anyway. :)