The tips in this post are from a Dressage Test Playbook in the Ride iQ mobile app.
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.
1. [A] Enter collected canter, [I] Collected trot, [C] Track right
Collected canter means uphill balance and enhanced engagement; it does not mean micromanaging and short steps. It’s still a forward, active canter.
Many horses are not straight on one lead or another. Find out which of your horse’s canter leads is the straightest, and enter on that lead.
The judge wants to see suppleness and bend in the track right.
2. [R-P] Shoulder-in right
In preparation for this, show flexion down the long side of the arena.
The shoulder-in is a three-track movement, about 30-degrees from the long side.
Demonstrate a correct position and consistent tempo. Show both the bend in your horse’s body and neck, as well as flexion in the poll.
3. [P] Half circle right 10m to [L], [L] Half pass right; returning to track between [R] and [M]
Don’t straighten before [P]; maintain the bend for your half circle.
Depending on how elastic your horse is from the hind end, you can make a longer or more direct half pass.
When half passing to the right, have right bend. Then when you get to the track, show a clear change of bend.
4. [S-V] Shoulder-in left
Again, create some flexion between [H] and [S] which will promote submission and contact.
5. [V] Half circle left 10m to [L], [L] Half pass left; returning to track between [S] and [H]
This has the same objectives as when you did this movement on the other side.
"As soon as you get to [H], change the bend in the body, in the flexion, in the poll, and make this very obvious to the judge. We want to see suppleness in both directions, and if you really think about almost exaggerating that bend, it will appear to be very pleasant to the judge." -PG
6. [M-V] Change rein medium trot, rising or sitting, [V] Collected trot
Create some suspension, and activate on the short side as you go past the judge. Raise the poll up and have a lively medium trot.
Your collected trot will be an activated, uphill trot
7. [A] Medium walk
The walk transition must be progressive, smooth, and the first steps of walk should be forward. The first walk steps should occur as your horse’s shoulder is passing [A].
The medium walk is an uphill frame.
8. [F-S] Change rein extended walk
The poll should lower to the same level as the withers, and the nose goes forward which, in turn, flattens the neck like a table.
Once you’ve achieved the correct frame, activate the walk and keep the tempo on the slower side. Engage the hindquarters for some overstep.
Consider using your seat more than your leg here, as using your leg could initiate a jog step.
Show reach of the shoulder and front-end. This is made possible if your hands are following the biomechanics of our horse, as opposed to being locked still, which would prevent that forward motion.
✍️ TAKE NOTE: A general guideline is that one step of overstep in the extended walk will score you a 7 if you’ve ticked all the other boxes. To get higher than a 7, you’ll need more overstep, which takes both practice and talent.
9. [S] Medium walk
Keep the walk lively and don’t shorten it too much; simply raise the poll back to your uphill balance.
Maintain some flexion to the inside in order to maintain submission.
10. [Before C] Shorten stride in medium walk, [C] Collected canter right lead
Show a crisp canter, with the first stride initiated without hesitation.
When shortening the walk stride, be careful not to shorten the neck by shortening the reins. Instead, from your medium walk at [S], simply do two half halts before [C] with your outer rein and soften before your canter transition.
11. [R] Medium canter, [B-E] Continue medium canter on half circle right 20m
Start your medium canter transition halfway between [M] and [R] so that you will be in medium canter by the time your horse’s shoulder pass [R].
12. [E] Collected canter
Start the transition from medium to collected canter on the final quadrant of your half circle.
Go for a little extra balance in this movement in preparation for your [S] turn right.
13. [S] Turn right, [I] Simple change of lead, [R] Track left
It is possible that the transition at [I] could be late. You want to have to walk steps before [I] and two walk steps after [I].
Encourage your horse to relax in the walk transition, take a deep breath, get organized, and have the right flexion. Be sure that everything is done with softness so that your horse does not pick up the canter with tension.
14. [C-A] Serpentine of three equal loops, width of arena, maintaining left lead
Maintain the left lead through flexion, not bend.
"From a judge's point of view, it's very unpleasant to see serpentine canters in the counter canter loop with too much bend. It just has a dreadful look and actually encourages the horse to be out of balance if we have too much bend." -PG
15. [P] Medium canter, [B-E] Continue medium canter on half circle left 20m
Collect the canter on the final quadrant of this half circle.
16. [E] Collected canter
Remember that extra balance is important here in preparation for your upcoming turn left.
17. [V] Turn left, [L] Simple change of lead, [P] Track right
Turning into a simple change should be smooth, not abrupt.
Just like on the other side, change your lead through four steps of walk, with two steps on either side of [L].
18. [A-C] Serpentine of three equal loops, width of arena, maintaining right lead
Again, make sure you don’t have bend in the neck. Keep the body straight and hindquarters active with just a little right flexion to maintain the correct lead.
19. [M] Collected trot, [R] Half circle right 10m onto centerline
20. [G] Halt; salute
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.
Discover six essential tips for new moms navigating their return to horse riding postpartum. From overcoming challenges to building a supportive community, you'll find valuable insights and empowerment here.
Lauren's impressive background in training horses from the beginning of their careers to the Grand Prix level makes her the perfect person to tackle this topic with us! Her passion for her work and dedication to her horses' long-term development and success shine through in this engaging discussion.