Thursday, January 16, 2014

Soapbox Moment: Dressage Salutes

Okay. I need to come clean about this.

The way the vast majority of people do their dressage salutes drives me absolutely crazy.

You may argue that since I am very distinctly in the minority here, I'm in the wrong. You may even be right.

I don't care. Seeing a quick, careless, sloppy salute gets under my skin immediately and fills me with irrational anger.

Please note that I did say "irrational."

What do I mean? Here are a few examples. Please note: the riders here are more or less a random sampling, and many of them are really lovely riders. I'm only using them to talk about their salutes, not their general tests.

Do you see what I mean?

That quick, hurried flip on an antsy horse, before it's even settled. The "get this over with" attitude toward the whole thing.

I see it in almost every single test I scribe for, and I do a fair amount of scribing - probably more than your average rider. (I have problems saying no.)

Here's how I was taught to salute:

Ride your centerline.

Halt. Wait a beat for your horse to settle and square, and while doing so, seek out the judge's face and make - if not eye contact - then at least a moment of connection.

Lower your head. Wait a beat.

Lower your right hand. Wait a beat.

Return your had to the reins. Wait a beat.

Raise your head, and in the moment that follows, re-find the judge's face and get your horse ready.

Strike off.

Does that sound really long? It's not. By "beat" I don't mean even a full second, but I do mean a pause. Take a breath. Let yourself settle and have a moment of space. The whole thing takes perhaps twice as long as one of those flippy salutes, but by that I mean it takes perhaps 2-3 seconds, total, rather than a fraction of one second.

To me, a quick flip salute like the majority of riders do presents two major disadvantages.

First, it's disrespectful. The point of a salute in the dressage test is to acknowledge the judge, and his/her role in what's about to occur. It always makes me think of the (mostly apocryphal) gladiator salute. ("We who are about to die salute you!" though maybe that's not very cheerful?) It's a sort of mutual gesture of partnership. You present yourself to be judged, and acknowledge that the judge will be evaluating you. Giving it the space it deserves is only right. (Though, judging by how many people blast through it and the pretty good scores they're still getting, most or all dressage judges don't care too much!)

Second, it's a built-in deep breath. Dressage is stressful. Riders are often nervous, frightened, worried - you name it. Going down the centerline is one of the biggest pressure moments in all of equestrian sport. Why blow through the one moment in the whole test where you can relax for a split second? Take that moment of zen. Appreciate it. Then get on with the business of riding the test. Don't waste it!

So there. My soapbox moment. I realize this is a really small thing to go crazy over, but it really fills me with an all out of proportion amount of frustration.

Agree? Disagree?


  1. No comment from me since I do not do any dressage tests of any kind :P

    1. I have never shown a proper h/j class either! But I'm curious - in the eventing stadium phase, you're meant to salute the judge as well - do you have to do that for any of the h/j classes?

  2. Now I'm going to have to go back and watch all my dressage tests out of paranoia.

    1. I think literally everyone does it. I honestly can remember only a very very small handful of tests that have ever had what I think of as a proper salute. So you would be in the vast majority if you do it quickly! It bothers me way more than it should.

  3. Well I can't say that it fills me with the irrational anger it does you but I do agree that #1 it is disrespectful and #2 that moment of breathing you take can really help the rest of your test. I know that I sometimes am just so nervous that I feel lucky that I even remembered to salute at all so in some ways I guess I count my blessings, lol.

    1. I admit: part of me loves the eventing tests that don't require a salute at all. Just go right on through and get on with it!

      (way too many things fill me with irrational anger - luckily I have a quick temper and rarely hold grudges!)

  4. I endorse this soapbox! The other piece of it is that during a test (or jump round, or whatever), everyone is almost always moving more quickly than they think they are (and riding less forwarly -- I don't know how those two things can simultaneously happen, but they do!). So what feels like a very deliberate painfully glacial beat-beat-beat salute, in reality, is usually a salute that is nicely crisp...because what feels to the anxious rider like a crisp salute is what looks from the scribe's seat like a rushed one.

    And while I totally sympathize with the desire to just get it over with already when the horse is fussing and not wanting to stand, I think there's maybe even more to be said for ringcraft in that situation as in the situation where you nailed it, if only so you leave the ring feeling like you and the judge had a laugh together instead of feeling humiliated!

    1. Yes yes yes. Agreed. Lots of things can feel painfully deliberate when you're riding the test - but it's always to your benefit to slow them down and give them the space they need, whether it's the salute or the changes of direction or the transitions. I guess that is part of the mental prep for showing!


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