This is the final part of our three part series on how to ride your first dressage test at Introductory Level, something you can do early on in your horseback riding training.
You’ve ridden up the center line and saluted: here’s what you do next.
Proceed Medium Walk/Working Trot
Take up the reins while taking a deep breath. Ask your horse to move smartly into the next gait (walk or trot, depending on which test you’re riding) and keep a straight line until you need to turn left or right at C, in front of the judge.
Give your horse plenty of warning that you are going to ask him to turn. At this level it’s acceptable to ride a half 10 meter circle before going down the long side, instead of riding two corners in quick succession. This helps you ride more smoothly.
Both tests ask for a 20 meter circle in rising trot halfway down the long side of the arena.
The directive ideas say you’ll be judged on the roundness of the circle. Even though it’s not mentioned, you’ll be marked down if the circle is too small or too big. Be sure to touch the track on the far side of your circle accurately at either E or B as required and again when you return to the side you started on.
Keep a good rhythm going, without slowing down. One of the key ways to get good marks in any dressage test is by maintaining a consistent rhythm and tempo throughout the test.
Remember, your marks will be doubled for the circle!
This movement also scores double marks, so it’s worth giving serious attention. Here’s another instance when most competitors dawdle along on a loose rein and take for ever to finish the movement. They get poor marks, throwing away the chance to get extra points for a very easy gait.
Again, be the competitor who impresses the judge with your energy as you really lengthen the reins (keeping light contact) and allow your horse to stretch his neck and stride. In the free walk your horse’s hind prints should reach ahead of his forelegs’ prints.
You’ll be judged on the straightness, quality and freedom of the walks. The more energy you put into them, the straighter you’ll ride and the more freely the horse will move.
This is something you can practice in your horseback riding training every time you get in the saddle. Use your warm up time, walk breaks and trail rides to train your horse to stride out. This way he learns to move well every time you ask for walk.
Medium Walk into Working Trot
Shorten the reins smoothly for the medium walk after the free walk : don’t suddenly pull on the horse’s mouth. Practice going from free to medium walk at home.
You’ll need to shorten the reins again for the transition to walking trot. Practice this, too, so that you don’t surprise your horse with sudden hand actions in the test.
MXK Change Rein
In Test B you’ll be changing direction in trot diagonally across the arena. Keep an even contact on both reins, and start to turn your horse before M, not afterwards. Ride across the arena purposefully, to keep your horse straight, and arrive at the other side before K to give yourself time to negotiate the turn smoothly. Remember to change your trot diagonal as you ride over X by sitting out one stride.
A: Down Centerline
The most common error is to overshoot the centerline when turning at A. The judge can see how far off center you are, and this will lose you a lot of marks, no matter how good your halt is.
Make your movement accurate by turning a half 10 meter circle from the long side onto the center line, instead of trying to ride two corners. This will keep your turn smooth too, as long as you don’t allow the horse to slow down. Use extra inside leg to keep his energy going in the turn and up the middle line.
X Halt Through Medium Walk
Just as at the beginning of the test, make a smooth transition from an energetic trot down to an energetic walk, and just hold the reins against the movement to achieve a good halt.
You salute in the same way as at the beginning of the test.
Now you can smile (!), pat your horse, and make sure you leave the arena on a free walk on a long rein.
Next time we’ll look at ways to prepare yourself for your first show.