As riders, we always want to put our best foot, and hoof, forward at shows. So when we don’t put out a good test or round it can be discouraging. Learning to be ok with being ok at shows will make the whole experience less disheartening.
I once had a judge ring me during a dressage test because she thought my canter transition wasn’t good for a schooling show. While she was telling me what she wanted me to do, I lost everything that I had worked on in warm up. It can be hard to take home a score that the judge gave you when they messed with your groove, but you can look at it one of two ways. You can be mad at the judge, which we all do sometimes, or you can look at what your score should have been and find improvement in the movement scores. Every error the judge gives you is a 2% penalty. So if your score was a 41.5% with the error, it would have been a 39.5% without it. Look at your score sheet and try to find some kind of positive note.
I have a friend who always gets a 42 on her dressage test no matter what. She used to get really down on herself when she would put in her best test yet and not lower her score at all. After a few shows, she has been able to turn it into a joke and a good laugh when she picks up her score sheet. Being able to put a spin on stuff like that is a great skill to have.
Another thing you can do is look at what the judge is giving other people. They may be a really harsh judge and naturally score people on the lower end. I find that judges who go to recognized shows are much harder if they judge a schooling show. Don’t go beating yourself up over a low score if it’s a low score kind of show for everyone.
Being able to accept that you have off shows and off rides is part of the sport. If you exit the ring still on your horse you had a good ride. Finishing is a feat in itself when it comes to competing. At this time, many people don’t finish and don’t leave on their horse. Learn from the bad days and celebrate the good days. We all have both!