Judging shows

My experience in the USDF L Candidate program

Repost from 2019

The question was posed, “How do you feel you did this weekend?”

The answer was flowing out of me before any conscious thought, because when you believe in what you are doing, you do not second guess yourself.  My response, “I feel I did my best, and that is all I can do.  Like showing, I show up as prepared as I possibly can, I attempt to have my homework done and be confident in what I know.  When I go into the ring, there is no one but my horse and myself, and win lose or draw, if I know I have given it my all, then I have no regrets.  If I do not achieve my goals, it is only because I was not ready. “  

This is not to say I did not second guess myself all through this process. There were many times I questioned my knowledge, thinking maybe all these years I have been looking at something wrong.  Many times, through this process, other candidate and the staff had different opinions about scores than I did.  Ultimately, I feel as though I have a good grip on most of it, but sometimes perspective can alter the way things are perceived.  Looking at the same view from the eyes of other candidates, and the staff, opened my mind to a different view of the same picture.  Having more tools in my toolbox is something I appreciate. 

 The amount of information I was consuming felt very overwhelming at first.   And, being a bit type A (lol, okay maybe more than a bit) I tend to dive into the deep end.   I fully submersed myself in the learning.   At the end of our final exam, I jokingly stated it was like “Drinking from a firehose” and had a surprised reaction from my educators.  Maybe not all felt the same.  Maybe my approach to learning is different from others, but my type A needed to read and study the entire USEF rulebook, and USDF Rule book, along with the large number of materials provided in the course itself.   After going through each session, I would then get the next sessions materials, and I would review all of it again, and again, and again.  I needed to feel like I had a solid understanding of the big picture, and there is a lot of information to absorb.

I had a very good working knowledge of much of the material already, from my 40 years of training and teaching, along with competing, and my constant drive to learn.  Years of more clinicians than I can count and reading any book I could get my hands on had prepared me well.  But going through it, I found the fine details and vocabulary were more in depth, and it placed a few more pieces into the puzzle that I had been missing.  There is an old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” and I am always aware that I do not know everything.  I am always striving to learn more, so I did not skip over any of the materials, even if I felt I already understood it. And in retrospect, I’m very glad I made that choice.

There came a point where I realized I had shifted in my process of studying.  In the beginning I was reading and studying to learn the material that was presented.   As I was reading through it again prior to this weekend, it dawned on me that I was now reading to learn how to be better at this.  The shift was subtle, but the result was huge.  Learning because it is required material vs learning because I wanted to know more changed the way it sank into my mind.  It became more meaningful.  Once again, it reminded me of the difference between riding and showing.  I had told my students this so many times, “don’t show…RIDE”.  Showing prevents you from riding, and you are being judged on your riding.  Let me tell you, your horse will know when you are showing!  So will the examiners at the final exam. 

Written exam, oral exams in front of top judges, judging full tests with my scribe, more oral judging, more questions to answer; the finale of 2 years of total submersion in the process. Finally, I am at the end.  Sitting at the airport, after sending my scribe off on her flight, my head is full of all that transpired over the last few days, the last two years, and the last 40 years on this journey.  I am amazed at the place I now stand. If you had told me years ago that I would be in this place, I would not have believed you.  It always amazes me how life can take you places that you never expect.  I learned much more than I thought possible.  Not to replace what I already had in my toolbox, but to add even more to it.   A lifetime of feeding that toolbox, and no end in sight to increasing the depth of knowledge that exists.  I have no Idea where this journey will take me, but I know it is a road I belong on.  

At the end of the day, whether I pass or not, it is not success or failure, it is another step in the process. Just another dressage test handed back to me that says, “keep going…you are on the right path” with all the scores and comments that will show me the way.  Because every 4 or 5 will point out a place I need to focus.   And every 8 is a celebration of hard work acknowledged.

Life is a blessing… 

Update: Passed, I am now an L Grad with distinction. I am so happy and proud of this achievement. Cannot wait to take the next step!