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|
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?