When I start weighing and analyzing the value of numbers, specifically scores, in the sport of eventing, I can’t help but think about Shakespeare’s infamous line from Romeo and Juliet: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet argues that a name is simply a name, and holds no other value. In other words, if Juliet had a different last name, she could have theoretically lived happily ever after with her one true love. You must be thinking what in the heck does Shakespeare and eventing have in common? Welcome to the inside of my brain!
Let me ask the question in a more current manner: What’s in a name? A name can hold tremendous meaning and yet a name can also hold no value at all. For instance, if someone says that they are a Rockefeller descendant that automatically means something. But why should it mean something? Or why does it have to mean everything? To a degree the same can be said about your dressage scores at a recognized show, or a schooling three phase. For me, dressage scores mean everything and almost nothing at the same time. When you get to a certain level in your riding and you basically understand what the judge is looking for when you go down centerline, you should neither be shocked nor upset when you see your scores. You either rode a beautiful and accurate test, or you did the opposite. Of course there are a plethora of different judges out there who are going to score at different ends of the spectrum. But in general, when you reach a certain point in your riding career, you almost become numb to scoring.
Even though I am quite competitive and I enjoy doing “well” at a show, I still have to hold my ground, and stay true to myself. I try to be very realistic when it comes to scoring. In my mind, if I had a less than ideal test, and my scores reflect the opposite, I am not automatically ecstatic. Similarly, if I thought I had a flawless test, but the scores show that the judge was not on the same page as I was, then I am not going to throw a hissy fit. Yes, I might be confused from time to time, thinking I should have scored higher, or lower at certain venues. But when all is said and done, you have to look at your ride from a more critical and personal point of view. You either were happy with your ride or you were not.
True story. Hitching Post H.T. was last weekend. I took my mare novice. In my mind, I rode a decent test. She was on the aids, obedient and the test felt very accurate with no major hiccups. I came out of the ring feeling content and pleased. A little while later, I notice that I am in 10th place and close to the end of the pack. I was surprised because I thought my test was good considering how much my dressage trainer and I have raised the bar. Even though I was perplexed by my score, I didn’t let that number effect my day, or my upcoming rides.
What did bother me was the fact that random people came up to me, who never even saw my test, or took the time to watch my test, and made quick judgments based on a number they spotted on a score sheet. Lila has a big fancy warmblood who should be winning everything. Or, I beat Lila and Valonia by 5 points. You get the picture. Again, these are just numbers. If you had a mediocre test and felt indifferent about your ride until you saw you were in first place, what sense does that make? Similarly if you has a gorgeous test and scored below average, and felt crushed after you saw your scores, what sense does that make?
I am not here to point fingers at anyone. We all make mistakes at events. Instead of making sweeping generalizations about someone’s ride based on an almost arbitrary number, that you didn’t even bother to watch, perhaps you should just say nothing. Don’t tell someone that you are sorry they scored poorly. Don’t make fun of other people’s scores. We all have our own struggles, and we all have a different partnership with our own horse. Not one single horse and rider at an event is alike. We have to respect each other and support one another. Like I said, even though I am fairly competitive, I don’t think that you can summarize a competitors outing based solely on a number. Again, what’s in a number?