Monday, January 10, 2011

Volunteer stories: Dressage diva, 1999

I used to volunteer at horse shows -- dressage shows -- and my favorite activity is scoring. But one day, it was raining and windy and no one wanted to be the ring steward for two rings. The volunteer coordinator asked me to do it, and I agreed.

Big. Mistake.

I really don't like the job.  I wear glasses, and it's hard to see the competitor numbers in the rain. Some competitors seem to take the presence of a steward as license to ignore the time. And there were a lot of scratches and lots of changes to track.

In the afternoon we were cranking through the upper level rides. A beautifuly made up middle-aged woman rode in on her gray horse, and rode a lovely test. As she rode I thought to myself that the rider looked like Elizabeth Taylor. Classy lady, classy horse, classy ride.  It seemed that way.

During the test, a dressage marker fell over into the ring as the pair passed it. There was no performance issue that I could detect. I was glad for her. After the test, the woman rode over to me and exclaimed "Oh, you'd better re-set that marker! It'll be a problem for the next person in the ring." She waited pointedly, and I obliged her by putting the marker upright. I thought little of it.

The rider rode directly over to the judge. They talked for several minutes. Curious. Then, a few moments later, he technical delegate for the show came to talk to me. Apparently there's a RULE that when something goes wrong with the ring (e.g., an overturned marker),  it's supposed to be left alone until the end of the rides for that test. What surprised me was that the nice lady on the gray was the one to complain to the judge. She told the judge that I had incorrectly changed the marker, and it wasn't fair that other riders didn't have to contend with the down marker. She wanted to re-ride the movement.

So she used the incident to argue for a re-ride of a movement. I was mortified and angry, and I told the TD that I had move the marker at the rider's directive. The TD nodded knowingly, and I got the impression this lady was not shocked in the least. I bet in her role as TD she'd seen it all. She talked to the judge, and they let the lady on the gray back into the ring. She re-rode the movement.

The TD came over to me afterward. "Well, that wasn't a good tactical move." Her re-ride scored one point lower than the original movement had scored. It was probably my worst experience as a volunteer-- and there have been many more wonderful volunteer experiences! This "positive" of this incident was that it introduced me to the role of a TD, and helped to spark my interest in learning to be a rule maven myself.


  1. Whoa. You were played. I am totally naive of this side of competition.

  2. Oh my goodness...I swear, the nerve of some people.

    I've volunteered at a few Morgan shows to man or (woman) the gate. Most people were friendly, but a select few of the trainers were rude, pushy and arrogant...ugh!

  3. I'm very curious about what this rule is. I'll be helping out at a show in a couple weeks, and it would be good to know.

    There's a horse notorious for kicking out the markers in his PSG test when he does a lead change too close to the rail. Last show the judge wanted us fixing the fence mid-ride. Are we technically supposed to leave it until the entire class is done, or are participant-caused issues exempt from the rule?

    Also, what the heck is wrong with someone who would do that? I'm glad to know her score got lower!

  4. I hate being the gate person due to pushy trainers, arrogant riders, and ring sour horses. Ugh. But the worst experience was being punched in the solar plexis by a trainer angry that one of the fences on a jumper course I set didn't have a white groundline (it had a green one, and one wasn't required anyway)!

  5. Wow that is pretty unbelievable. What a learning experience.

  6. What a loser. Serves her right for trying to cheat. I'm glad she lost a point.

  7. Bummer. Glad the score was worse on the re-ride. Just what she deserved for playing that trick on you.

  8. Note to self: When acting as TD, beware of Elizabeth Taylor look a likes!

  9. Net - ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS consult the TD before doing ANYTHING to, or even AROUND the ring. The Judge is NOT the boss. its the TD who enforces rules. The Judge is allowed to DQ people under certain conditions, but if the Judge EVER has an issue with the ring, the environment, etc, almost ALL of them will call for the TD to confirm what they are entitled to ask for - even the Judges who ARE TDs - because its the TD who INTERPRETS THE RULES - NOT THE JUDGE.

    I've had THE opposite happen - encountered a manipulative ring steward - I got rushed into a national championship ride before my horse was warmed up because two riders in front of me scratched that the steward told me to go - when I protested it wasn't my time yet, she told me, "The judge isn't going to be happy just to sit there for 10 minutes with nothing to do right before your ride - you dont' want to ride infront of an unhappy judge."

    I naively went ahead, before my horse and I were ready, and didn't score what we were capable of. I have since learned....

    But this lady? Total DQ - what a bitch. Gives the rest of us a bad name.

  10. Bitch. Plain and simple.
    Glad you got to witness karma in real time!!


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