Horse Riding Lessons Blog

How to Ride the Introductory Tests: Part 3

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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.

Circle 20m
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!

Free Walk
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.





















Why Do Horses Wear Shoes?

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At some point in your horseback riding training you will notice that some horses wear shoes and others don’t. You may wonder why that is.

Isn’t Shoeing Horses Unnatural?

A horse in the wild doesn’t wear shoes. But neither does he get ridden by humans, so having a rider on his back is already unnatural for him. His legs and hooves have to cope with the extra weight, which puts additional pressure on them.

The stress of horseback riding training on a horse’s body makes it necessary to help him cope with the extra physical wear and tear on his hooves.

Some Horses Need Shoes More Than Others

Hooves come in all shapes and sizes and strengths. If you think of human nails, some are strong while others are very brittle. It’s the same for horses: some hooves need the added protection of shoes.

Some horses can perform everything the rider wants without shoes: then it’s only necessary to trim the hooves.

Like human nails, the hoof is growing all the time, and if it’s not trimmed back it will affect the horse’s way of going and make him stumble. Hooves can also get cracks in them or chunks can break off. These all need attending to.

For shallow feet, or soles which touch the ground, shoes raise the hoof off the ground and prevent the horse from getting sore.

Does Shoeing Hurt the Horse?

Next time the farrier comes to your boarding barn, watch how the horse reacts to having shoes nailed into his hoof. The more experienced horses simply fall asleep! Nailing shoes onto a horse’s hoof is as painful as putting a ring through your nail tip.

But not anyone can shoe a horse: the farrier is a licensed professional who knows where to drive the nail in without hitting and hurting the inside of the foot.

Corrective Shoeing

An experienced blacksmith can use shoes for assisting a horse with foot problems such as navicular. If a horse has bruised soles, the farrier protects them with a leather pad.

Over time careful shoeing can increase the size of the hoof to spread the weight of horse and rider over a larger surface area, thereby decreasing the pressure on the hoof.

For your horseback riding training your horse’s hooves must be in top condition. When you have a good farrier, who uses his skills to improve the horse’s comfort, shoeing helps many equines perform their jobs more easily.

How to Dismount From Your Horse in an Emergency

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As part of your horseback riding training it’s useful not only to know how to stop a horse in an emergency but also how to dismount in a hurry if you’re not able to stop the horse in time to avert danger.

Times when this would be necessary are if the horse is going at a fair pace. But since dismounting at anything faster than a walk is in itself dangerous, it is best to practice this first in halt.

Only you can decide if you are able to do this. Otherwise, take note of the steps below and be ready to carry them out if need be!

Dismounting in an Emergency 

Step 1: Take your feet out of the stirrups.

Step 2: Let go of the reins and put your hands on the horse’s neck or the front (pommel) of the saddle. Alternatively, hold the horse’s mane.

Step 3: Lean forwards as for regular dismounting.

Step 4:  Swing your outside leg over the horse’s rump, at the same time pushing yourself upwards and away from the horse.

Step 5:  Land on your feet (hopefully!) facing the direction of travel. Take a few strides forwards to steady yourself before coming to a standstill.

How to Fall Off

This is also a good place to explain the best way to fall off a horse – as opposed to deliberately dismounting – when you lose balance and are unable to stay in the saddle.

  1. Let go of the reins. Yes, the horse will be able to run off if he wants to, but more importantly you won’t get dragged along or have your arms pulled out of their sockets.
  2. Tuck your head in and roll yourself into a ball
  3. Relax as best you can and let yourself fall.

 It won’t be nearly as bad as you think!

You don’t want to worry about how to respond in an emergency riding situation. File away in your mind how to react in such events, and you’ll relax when you ride.