Beaming smiles, frustrated frowns and visible sighs of relief – you’d be surprised what your final centre line reveals about you and your horse.
Having recently spent some time writing for a dressage judge, I was fascinated by people’s facial expressions after they performed their final halt and salute. The judging may be over by that point but those few seconds at the end of the test give so much away about the weeks/months/years leading up to that moment and the relationship you have with your horse.
Most of the time it is easy to tell whether the rider is relieved, upset, delighted, disappointed or furious. When I was writing, I felt those emotions through the glass of the judge’s box and I desperately wanted to acknowledge that I understood how they felt. Having ridden countless centre lines on a range of horses from lazy ponies to ticking time bombs, that final halt can be an emotional experience! In that split moment you can either feel like all the years of hard work have been worth it, or that you’ve had enough of the humiliation and are going to take up basket weaving instead.
Of course, the judge can only score what they see in front of them at the time, but how often have you wished you could give some extra context to your test? At the last outing with my horse, I wanted to say to the judge “Think that was bad? You should have seen my last test!” I’m not sure what my face looked like at the end but I tried to telepathically communicate with the judge that I was delighted with the improvement.
So, it got me wondering what else our facial expressions might say about us when we perform that final centre line. Here is my top ten:
- The ear to ear grin: Yes! We smashed it. Next stop, the Olympics.
- The sigh of relief: Hoorah – we stayed in the arena for the first time in months AND I remembered the test. Result.
- The confused expression: We’ve practised those transitions for months and suddenly he’s forgotten how to walk.
- The grimace: What a total arse. That is all.
- The wry smile: Yes, I know flying changes weren’t required – but wow what potential!
- The knowing look: Hit me with your lowest scores, I’m ready.
- The apologetic exchange: Mouthing the word S-O-R-R-Y to the judge.
- The quivering lip: You have no idea what we have been through to get here. I’m so proud, I love my horse (sob)!
- The final frown: That’s it I’m throwing the towel in and trading the lorry for a campervan.
- The nod to the stars: I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive!
Undoubtedly, there are many other stories being told as you reach that final halt. I’d love to hear what your centre line face says about you!