Axel returned home from the ESDCTA Memorial Day weekend show in Allentown, NJ beaming. “I gave a 10,” he told me as he walked in the door.
Now, some people get anxious when they know they have to ride in front of Axel Steiner. He is not known for handing out big numbers just for the heck of it. If it’s not up to snuff, he is going to tell you about it with one of those low number that only look good on your golf scorecard. If it’s good, you’ll get rewarded. Either way, he’s going to tell the truth about what he sees, and sometimes that’s a little daunting.
Sometimes it happens during a really good Training Level ride that when a horse gets into a flawless, tick-tock rhythm and fluid balance, big scores can happen. Even so, 10 isn’t given very often. A score of 10, by the way, translates to “Excellent”, not perfect as some would have you think. So when Axel told me he’d given a 10, my first thought was that it was during a lovely lower level ride.
“Oh no,” he said. “It was during the Developing Horse class.”
For those of you who don’t know, the Developing Horse class is a shortened Prix St George level test for 7-9 year olds. It’s a continuation of the FEI Young Horse program, designed to bring gifted horses another step towards international competition. If a 10 is scarce at Training level, it’s a rare thing indeed at Prix St George, especially from a young horse.
“And I gave it for the halt-and-rein-back,” he grinned.
I was impressed. The halt and rein back is a hard movement to score big on, simply because there are so many pieces that are lumped together in one score: the transition from the trot to the halt; the rein back itself; the transition back up to the trot. A lot can go wrong in any of those pieces! To get a 10 in that movement shows that the horse is probably doing a whole lot right in the rest of the test. “So how do you know when it’s a 10?” I asked.
“When the clouds part, and the Cosmic Hand points down at the horse in the ring, and the Big Voice says, “That was a 10,” he joked. “Seriously, I know it’s a 10 when it simply can’t be anything but a 10.” That’s the Big Voice of 40 years of judging experience talking!
The recipient of the 10, and the winner of the Developing Horse class with a 67.87%, was Courtney King-Dye on Harmony’s Wyoming. Congratulations, Courtney!