4 Classic, Cringe-worthy Eventing Dressage Test Comments

Enter at A… uh oh.

Illustration by Morgane Schmidt of The Idea of Order.

Illustration by Morgane Schmidt of The Idea of Order.

If I had to take a poll, I would not be surprised in the least if the majority of event riders said that dressage was their least favorite phase. Don’t get me wrong, I am a closeted dressage lover myself, and when you’re riding an incredibly talented, athletic and broke horse, dressage can be incredibly fun and rewarding. But when push comes to shove, event riders live for cross country… am I right?!

Not only do I find it incredibly amusing and interesting to talk to random individuals after their dressage tests, particularly to see their expressions or hear their one-liners summing up their test, I will never get over the hilarious, humbling and occasionally downright mean comments that dressage judges generously leave us in the comments section of our tests. Here are some noteworthy dressage judge comments that I specifically remember receiving!

“Tough horse… good luck on cross-country!”

Ahhhh, those soothing remarks telling you something you either: A) already know and dread being told the same thing, or B) don’t know, because you think your horse is amazing at dressage and enjoy living in denial. Regardless, we’ve all either been here or know someone who has. The second horse I ever owned frequently ran into this comment. She was absolutely TOUGH in dressage, but the horse could jump. After millions of shed tears and the inevitable humiliation that’s associated with being last after dressage at every single outing, I came to the conclusion at a very young age that dressage was NOT fun. Eventually I got over this, but the comment still haunts me!

“I’m sorry you weren’t given enough warm-up today.”

There I was at Stoneleigh Burnham Horse Trials about seven years ago. It was one of those stifling hot July days. Jackets were waved and everything you wore clung to your body. You would think that extreme heat would calm my hot thoroughbred mare, but no such luck. In fact, she was wound tighter than a drum. I did everything I could think of to settle her. I tried lunging her. I rode her for a while in the early morning way before dressage, I hacked her around the property, and then I warmed her up again. The more I rode, the more intense she became. It was just not our day. Finally it was our turn to go into the ring. The test was horrific and I knew it. The judge left me with the above comment. I actually laughed out loud when I read it!

“Some OK moments!”

This is honestly one of my favorites. C’mon, judge, just give me the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The test was pretty horrible and you’re trying to be nice, so you twisted the words around and disguised the diss as a positive remark. I really don’t appreciate sugar coating. If a test was bad — which I’ll be the first to admit, I have had some horrible tests — then it was bad. Some good moments are referring to the two 7’s I received while all the other movements received 4’s!

“Nice turnout.”

If you get this one, you know the judge is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for positive feedback. They literally have nothing good to say about your test, so they turn their attention instead to aesthetics. Variations on the theme include “well-polished boots,” “neat braids,” “neat browband” and “clean horse.” But hey, we’ll take it. After all, it’s better than nothing!

Please, do tell: What are some of the most interesting/hilarious comments you have received on a dressage test?!

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 28 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I’m currently leasing an awesome ISH gelding named Theatre Royal (owned by Gayle Davis), and we are going Prelim. When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media, or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.

Lila and Skybreaker. Hitching Post 2013.

Lila and Skybreaker at Hitching Post in 2013.



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