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Words Of Wisdom with Sara Jane Lanning

Welcome to Words of Wisdom; where we share al the great pearls of knowledge, experience and insight from our podcast episodes with our fantastic guests! These blog posts are a mixture of quotes from our guests and notes i make as i listen back and edit the episode - they are the bits i want to make sure i remember and take into my own training!

Today we're heading to back to our amazing episode with List 1 judge, Grand Prix rider and Level 3 coach Sara Jane Lanning who gave us so many helpful tips and tricks as well as an insight into a judges mind ! So many of you loved this episode because Sara was able to bring her judges brain and al the knowledge she has gained from her training and years spent judging some of the best combinations in the country; but was also able to understand the riders perspective, and the coaches too!


“Although the end result is the same, different horses need different routes, different exercises and different speeds to get there.”

What is the end goal you have in your head of what you want your horse to be like at the end of your training journey?

 I want a harmonious picture, I know it is so hard to achieve, but i want that look that you're not doing anything and the horse is happy. I want the horse to be enjoying what its doing, I don’t want to have to work to make the horse work, I want them to feel nice as well as look nice, I don’t want to have a horrible feeling down the rein and I've ridden all different types of horses, big ones, little ones, hot horses, lazy horses and that has helped me learn what my picture needs to look like. If you have a correct understanding of what the movements need to look like then that helps to create that picture in my head of what I'm trying to achieve.

What does the judge actually want to see?

  • Correct training (everything comes back to the scales of training: rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, collection)

  • Harmonious picture

  • Movements being correctly positioned (test riding!)


Where are the places most riders lose marks?

  • Walk Pirouettes: I don’t know many people that like riding them / judging them or training them. The horse needs to be off the aids they also need to be balanced, there's a lot involved and I see a lot of riders winging them round

  • Half passes: lots of people give marks away for badly set up half passes and worrying about going sideways. They end up starting in quarters leading and haven’t thought about the fact they need to have the horse bending around the inside leg – the marks have come off before you even start.

  • Preparation plays a big role. You’ve got to ride those short sides and corners; as you go up the levels the amount you are meant to go in the corners goes up. At Prelim, you don’t have to ride as far into the corners as you do at novice and so on.  You watch Charlotte Dujardin ride her corners and you can see every single time she rides into and out of her corners, she really sets them up and uses them to prepare for the next movement.

How do you judge so many different types of horses; do you judge a native differently to a warmblood?

A judge in their head at each level will have a picture of what is a 7, what is an 8 and so on. As you progress up the levels, a 7 at Prelim isn’t the same as a 7 at PSG, a horse should develop through the levels. So for a 7 at Prelim, that 7 would stay the same no matter whether it is an Arab, a warmblood, a native and so on. We cannot say ‘because this horse is a pony it has a smaller stride so I’m going to be more lenient’. A warmblood may come in on an 8 whereas a pony may come in with a short and choppy stride and may come in with a base trot on a 6. That flashy horse might come in in that big flashy trot but may not be able to maintain that round the corners and lose balance or rhythm, whereas the smaller stride pony is often incredibly rhythmical, they may not go up to the 8s or 9s but they also rarely go down to the 4s or 5s.

What can you do if you get a bad mark or a score you don’t agree with?

The first thing I would say is to note that some people often come out of the arena and go straight to the negative., I think we all need to take a moment to go off, cool off and take a moment; if you have someone who has been able to take a video, go and watch it because often from where the judge is sat it might look very different to what it felt like. When you get the sheet back, look back at what the judge has said, if you don’t understand the comments take it back to your trainer. Remember judges have a limited amount of time and a limited amount of space on the test sheet; often judges want to say more and explain their comments but there just isn’t the space or time to do it. If a judge has given you a 7, they are already telling you its fairly good. All the comments tell you what you need to do more of or less of to make the marks better so read them! All horses (and us!) have good days and bad days, you may find that you change 3% since your last test, remember it only takes a 0.5 mark different every movement and you'll end up with a 5% difference in the scores so it doesn’t take a lot! Things can look so different from the front and the side so you may find you get a great mark from the judge at C compared to the judge at E; the judge at C might see a fantastic straight halt, whereas the judge at E will see the halt is 3m off of X and not square from the side and this is ultimately why we have more than one judge at championships and the bigger shows.


What is the best thing to do for a rider to improve their scores

Test riding! When we train at home we have the luxury of being able to add in another circle or wait till that perfect time to aso for that canter transition – we cant do that in a test. I do a lot of work, practicing putting movements together and setting up for movements. Sign up to do some test riding sessions with a judge because it will give them a different perspective. It will show you what you need to do to improve. Going to write for a judge is also fantastic because you start to see what the judge sees and see things from their perspective. Watch other riders ride their tests, you will learn so much especially at those bigger shows.



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