Friday, October 25, 2019

Degree of difficulty, part two

This right here is the secret to performance showing success. Thank you so much for sharing, Hanna. I can not wait to see what you come up with next!

Degree of Difficulty

by Hanna Bear

I worked really hard to get my entries together for A Midwinter Night's Ball in 2018. I painted horses, made tack and props, and carried two HUGE bases back and forth all day. I did okay, and even managed a reserve English Champ, but the most valuable thing I walked away with that day wasn't a ribbon... it something that judge Jennifer said. I asked her what I could work on to improve my entries in the future. "You're off to a good start," she said, "but I want more. Increase the degree of difficulty." This stuck with me like no advice had before.
Hanna at the 2019 BreyerFest Artisans Gallery
Jennifer has before likened performance judging to judging the sport of reining. In reining, an average, safe stop from an easy gallop certainly won't be penalized, but it won't earn you extra points, either. Increasing the degree of difficulty (such as by getting to an all-out gallop before the stop), means that, although it is harder to do and is more likely to go wrong, you'll generate more points for the movement if you can pull it off.
As I sat down to plan my entries for the next show, that advice was swirling in my brain. For me, "degree of difficulty" boiled down to a few keys things: increasing realism (the amount of detail of each component), choosing more complicated setups (to increase the quantity of judge-able elements), and making as much as I could myself (to have better control over the level of detail... and - let's face it - to be able to afford it.)
Increasing the degree of difficulty in the performance arena meant embracing the riskier parts of performance entries, such as dealing with (and learning to make!) dolls, double bridles, and fiddly boots, instead of staying in the safe zone. A safe entry was unlikely to earn a negative score, but it was also unlikely to earn a positive one. Like in reining, increasing the level of difficulty meant risking mistakes or failures, but it it also meant aiming for "spectacular" rather than "safe." It meant giving judges lots of things - gasp - to judge. A judge cannot judge what isn't there, so I made it my job to put things there to be judged.
Focusing on the degree of difficulty meant rigorous self-critique and never settling for "done." A last placing didn't make an entry worthless, and a first place didn't make it immune from improvement. Focusing on improving the degree of difficulty proved much more worthwhile and useful than focusing on improving an entry's *placing.* It meant I was never short of work to do, and yet never upset about or discouraged by show placings. As long as I had improved my entry's degree of difficulty from last time, I felt proud of what I'd done and excited to do more. 
The Jennifer Show was utterly thrilling, entirely intimidating, and completely rewarding. The Jennifers managed to increase the degree of difficulty of *performance showing,* and the showers really rose to the challenge. I didn't walk away with a mini Anise, but every entry I put on the table was my best one yet. Every placing was hard-fought and every class was really a showcase of the hobby's best. I'm proud of what I made and what I showed, and I'm also excited to keep working to increase the degree of difficulty of every entry, until my eyes give out and my fingers break. And even then... that's just an increase in the degree of difficulty, right? 


  1. Wow Hanna, you have an incredible knack for showing natural movement in both horse and rider, but especially the rider. Your riders are amazing!!

  2. I'm so glad I finally have some time to catch up on blog reading. I am exceptionally excited to know who these gorgeous entries belong to! I have been admiring them in photos for over a month now! Such cool details and AMAZING dolls!

  3. (Hopefully) Quick question- how does one become involved in the world of performance showing? I'm hoping to being soon (either at Sea to Bay or MAR), but I have no clue as to where to begin! It's been something that's been on my hobby bucket list for ages, and I'm hoping that I can branch out from solely showing in Halter. Any tips help. Thanks in advance (granted any of y'all have time to respond, which I absolutely understand if you don't)! :)