May 2, 2012

Test Calling

When I started showing again last year one thing I noticed was that almost everyone had a test caller.  Even when I went to go see my trainer ride, she had someone calling out the test to her.  When did this become the norm?

When I first started showing (10+) years ago, you almost never saw a reader outside of Training Level, and even then it was for the younger riders. 

For me, I've never shown with a reader.  And its a personal preference to be sure, I find when people are yelling out the next movement its very distracting.  In my head I get disrupted and think "I know I've already planned to turn right at C, thanks."

The way I was trained was that learning your test is part of your preparation and training.  Not necessarily to run the test in the ground, but to practice it in your head, on paper, in your living room, whatever worked.  How can you prepare for a movement if you don't know its coming? 

I get it, there is a lot going on, and with nerves its very easy to forget your next movement.  I know, I have forgotten a test a time or two. And to know you have someone to help you remember the test so you can concentrate on your riding certainly seems like a good compromise, but a compromise none-the-less.

OK.... super honesty time here... I'm trying to be impartial here and see both sides, but to be truly honest, I don't like it.  I think if you are going to show you should know your test.  If you don't know your test, you aren't ready to show.  Show jumpers and eventers have to remember the course, reiners have to remember their pattern and they only learn those moments before they show.  Why are dressage riders different?  We have weeks-months to practice and drill the pattern into our sub-conscious.

Yes, there are nerves.  Yes, its easy to panic and forget the test mid-way.  But its still part of the experience.  Part of learning to show and ride dressage is learning how to focus, tuning out the nerves and just riding your horse.  Having someone yelling at you every 30 seconds doesn't create the serene concentration I associate with dressage. 

I'm not talking about whether or not it's fair that those who remember their test get judged the same as those how didn't.  That's not the issue, that's the same as the sitting vs posting trot in 1st level.  You have the choice of either so you get judged the same, its your choice.  I'm just talking about the professionalism of it.  I guess I'm a perfectionist and unwilling to compromise and I feel that having a test reader compromises the picture I'm trying to create.  And even though it doesn't count against you I can't imagine that it isn't distracting to the judge.

Have I taken hits because I didn't use a reader and forgot my test?  Absolutely.  Is it possible I'll change my mind as the tests I ride get harder? Maybe.  But for now, I just don't get how and why this has become a part of dressage shows.  We strive to be perfect in our movement, training and riding, why muddy the waters because we can't remember 20 movements?

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