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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.