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The Essential Dressage Scribe
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The Essential Dressage Scribe

Dressage riders, especially at the lower levels, are often mystified by the marks and remarks on their score sheets. They don't understand how their marks could have been so low when the test they rode felt amazing. How confusing and demoralising!

One really good way to learn more is to view things from the judge's perspective at 'C'. The best way to do this is by volunteering to act as the judge's scribe or writer at a competition. Most judges are quite happy to answer questions during breaks in the class and seeing a test as the judge sees it can be extremely revealing.

What makes a good scribe?

A good scribe is an absolute godsend to a judge. She enables the judge to concentrate on their role of assessing the competitors and produces score sheets that are easy for the competitors to read and understand.

Good organisation, effective listening, ability to concentrate and neat, quick handwriting are essential qualities for a good scribe.

Duties and responsibilities

The night before the competition, read through the test you are scribing and familiarise yourself with it. It may be necessary to politely prompt the judge if she misses out a mark and you will need to be able to spot this immediately.

Make sure you know where the competition venue is and arrive in good time. Dress smartly in keeping with the level of the event. Don't turn up in your mucking out clothes and muddy riding boots! Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the weather so that you're warm and comfortable.

Bring plenty of pens (not pencils) and a spare clipboard. If you wear them, don't forget your glasses!

Present yourself to the organiser/secretary who will give you your running order and blank score sheets and introduce you to your judge. Remember to ask if there are any withdrawals and mark your running order accordingly.

Make sure you know where the loo is and when your breaks are. Ask the organiser if you will be required to collect refreshments for yourself and your judge during the breaks. If you are given a basket containing refreshments, check that everything you need is in there.

If you are to positioned in a judge's box or an organiser's car, check that it's clean, clear of rubbish and that the heater is switched on (if required).

Listen carefully to your judge's briefing so that you know how she works. Most judges give their comment first followed by a mark for each movement. Some like their scribe to keep a note of the collective marks for each rider.

Before the class starts, flick through the score sheets to make sure they are for the correct test, are all the same, are blank and that you have enough. Don't fill in the horse and rider details on the sheets until they arrive at the arena. Score sheets are quite expensive and organisers will not thank you for wasting them!

Before the class starts, switch off your phone!

As each competitor arrives, check their number on your running order and make sure that you have the right rider. If in doubt, ask.

During the test, try to keep an eye on things to make sure that you are in the right place on the score sheet. If you think you've missed a mark, tell the judge immediately as it can be difficult to rectify omissions later. Even if you don't manage to get all the judge's comment down for a movement, make sure you do get the mark.

Do not interrupt the judge or talk to her while she is writing up her collective marks after each rider has finished their test. Save any discussion for breaks if there is time.

You may use abbreviations; trans (transition), eng (engagement), s/in (shoulder in) etc.

Confidentiality is very important. Do not repeat anything you have heard or discussed with the judge after the class has finished.

Ensure that the judge has signed each sheet and keep them all together to hand to the runner who will take them to the scorers. When the class has finished, check that you have handed in all the completed score sheets and give any blanks back to the organiser.

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  1. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Voted. Wow! There is a lot that goes on "behind" the scenes during Dressage events. Good tips and very informative. x :)
    1. autumnap
      Thank you! x
  2. PonyGirl
    Another interesting post. Since I only rode dressage for marks at riding school, I didn't know such a position existed. It sounds like an excellent way to learn.
    1. autumnap
      Thank you! Yes, it's certainly very revealing to sit and watch from the judge's position. x

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