Helpful Tips

Tips From a Dressage Judge: 2022 USEF Beginner Novice Test B

View and print the 2022 USEF Beginner Novice Test B here:

The tips in this post are from a Dressage Test Playbook in the Ride iQ mobile app.

A screenshot from the Ride iQ mobile app of a dressage test playbook for the 2022 USEF Beginner Novice Test B.

Meet the judge, Peter Gray

Peter is a renowned dressage judge and has judged at some of the world's most prestigious events including the 2022 World Eventing Championships in Italy. He has been to the Olympics Games as both an event rider and as a team coach. Peter is ICP Level IV certified and he is a Ride iQ coach.

Dressage rider Peter Gray rides a bay horse down centerline

Before you enter the arena

Go around the arena clockwise. This will help get the horse supple and ready to track right.

1. [A] Enter working trot, [C] Track right

For the centerline:

  • To get a really straight line when you enter, focus on a point in front of you. That point could be the judge's tent or the license plate of their car. Stare at your focal point and squeeze with both legs.
  • Have equal pressure in both hands and legs.
  • There should be no bend in the horse or flexion in the poll.
  • Keep the tempo even.

The first time the judge sees the horse from the side will be when you turn right at C. That will show them the quality of the trot.

  • Ride [C] Track right more like [G] half circle to the right with bend. This will enable you to make a fluid turn showing suppleness and engagement.

✍️ TAKE NOTE: You receive just one score for these two movements.

2. [B] Circle right 20m, working trot

  • The judge wants to see an even tempo and steady contact.
  • Show bend and suppleness on the circle.

3. [Between F and A] Working canter right lead

This is a good place to ask for the canter (thank you, test designers!). The corner prepares you to make a nice balanced transition.

The mark you get here is only for the transition.

A woman in a navy show coat rides a bay mare in dressage on a sunny day.
Ride iQ member krista wilson on Stella

4. [A] Circle right 20m, working canter

"We're going to be judging the balance of the canter, but most importantly, the rhythm." -PG
  • If you have to go slightly more forward to get a pure three-beat rhythm, do that.

5. [Between K and E] Working trot

  • Prepare for the transition in the corner between A and K. The bend will help balance and prepare for the down transition.
  • Make the transition soon after K.

⚠️ WARNING: If you make the transition close to E, your horse will likely get more on the forehand or out of balance because you've been cantering on a straight line.

6. [Between H and C] Medium walk

This is a nice place to ask for the downward transition.

"I wouldn't make the transition at H or at C, but absolutely in the middle of those two letters. The fact that we have bend in the horse's neck is going to encourage them to be soft in the hand in that down transition." -PG

7. [M-X-K] Change rein free walk

  • Encourage the poll to be lower than the withers.
  • Allow the neck and head to stretch down and forward.
"I advise everyone to have a person on the ground when practicing the free walk at home. It's amazing how many times we see a free walk where the neck is not down and forward, but actually curling behind. This will lead to a severe reduction in your score. Ask the person on the ground to tell you when the horse's nose is in front of the vertical for the free walk." -PG

8. [Between K and A] Develop medium walk, [F] Working trot

A corner is a nice place to transition from free walk to medium walk. Transitioning in the turn with bend reduces the chance that the horse will get tense.

  • Bring the poll above the withers for the medium walk.

There is very little time to get ready for the working trot at F.

  • Prepare for the trot transition in the turn.
  • As the horse's shoulder approaches F, you should be about to take your first step of trot. Don't be late!

✍️ TAKE NOTE: You receive just one score for these two movements.

9. [B] Circle left 20m, working trot

You did this movement in the opposite direction already. Remember:

  • Consistency in the bend and flexion
  • Evenness of the tempo
  • Confidence with the connection
A woman in a navy show coat rides a grey horse in dressage.
Ride iQ member Tori Pengelly

10. [Between M and C] Working canter left lead

The transition in the corner will help keep your horse balanced.

A woman in a black show coat rides a bay gelding in dressage on a sunny day.
Ride iQ member Kim Reeves and her horse Luke

11. [C] Circle left 20m, working canter

  • The rhythm is most important. Do whatever you need to do to establish a good rhythm in the canter.

12. [Between H and E] Working trot

  • Transition closer to H.
  • Start the transition to trot in the turn between C and H. The bend in the corner will make the horse less likely to resist against the contact.

13. [A] Down centerline

  • Ride this like a half circle left at K. Doing so will show bend and fluency.

14. [G] Halt through the walk; salute

  • The halt is at G, not at X. Make sure you go all the way to the final letter on the centerline
  • Show immobility before leaving the arena.

Collective mark: Harmony of athlete and horse

"For me, this is a happiness mark. Was it a pleasant test to watch? Did the rider show the gaits to the full potential? The rider should show off the freedom of the horse's gaits through their ringmanship. Round off the corners and show the quality of the gaits." -PG

💡 YOU READ THAT RIGHT! Round off the corners rather than going too deep. Doing so will show off your horse's gaits and prevent them from getting "stuck" in the corners.

Want more help improving your dressage scores?

In addition to hundreds of listen-while-you-ride audio lessons with top coaches, the Ride iQ mobile app also includes Dressage Test Ride Alongs (top coaches ride the test along with you and share tips and guidance along the way) and Dressage Test Read-Throughs (a reader calls out the test in the time it takes to ride it – great to help with memorization!).

Sign up and start your Ride iQ 2-week free trial. You will have unlimited access to listen-while-you-ride audio lessons for all levels, dressage resources, exclusive podcasts, an online community with coaches and members, and more. All for $29.99/month after the free trial.

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