Helpful Tips

Tips From a Dressage Judge: 2022 USEF Modified Test C

View and print the 2022 USEF Modified Test C here.

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.

Dressage rider Peter Gray rides a bay horse down centerline

✍️ TAKE NOTE: This test is only to be held in a 20x60 arena, but still can be done in rising or sitting trot.

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

  • Make this a smooth turn with bend to show fluency and suppleness of the trot

2. [H-P] Change rein, lengthen stride in trot, [P] Working trot

  • Aim slightly to the left of [P] so you can set yourself up for the transition from lengthen to working

3. [A] Turn right down centerline, [L-H] Leg yield left

  • Half circle onto the centerline – show suppleness
  • It would be easier to leg yield right when you get on the centerline, but you need to go straight first
  • Remember to have your position correct and consistent from start to finish, as well as an even tempo
  • Keep the trot balanced in preparation for your upcoming halt transition
"This in itself is a balance requirement. It's almost easier to go leg yielding right after you get onto the centerline, so if they're a little unbalanced then you just continue going sideways." - PG

4. [C] Halt; proceed medium walk

  • Your horse’s shoulders should be in-line with the letter [C]
  • Calmly count three seconds before proceeding with a medium walk
  • The medium walk should have your horse’s poll in a more ‘up’ frame
A dark grey, dappled horse at the halt during a dressage test

5. [M-V] Change rein free walk

  • The poll should be lowered now, below the wither

6. [V] Medium walk, [K] Working trot

  • Aim about 1m to the right of [V] so you can make a balanced transition to medium walk right at the letter
  • Instead of collecting or shortening the walk, just raise the poll and keep the fluency and regularity of the walk
"I think sometimes people micromanage the walk in that transition and create tension. Simply raise the poll and keep a light feel, and be ready to go smartly into the trot." -PG

7. [A] Turn down centerline, [L-M] Leg yield right

  • Again, make a rounded turn with bend onto the centerline
  • Maintain the balance until you get to [L], and then begin your leg yield

8. [H] Working canter left lead

  • Plan on making this transition when your horse’s nose is getting to [H], which would be slightly early since you only have 12 meters for this before lengthening

9. [S] Lengthen stride in canter, [E-B] Continue lengthening on half circle left 20m, continue lengthening to [R]

  • You want to already be in lengthen when your horse’s shoulder gets to [S]
  • Instead of accelerating into the lengthen, build ground cover while maintaining a nice rhythm
  • Remember to show lengthening of the frame as well as the stride
  • Maintain this lengthen after your half circle and onto the long side

10. [Between R and M] Develop working canter

  • Start the working canter one stride before [R]

11. [H-X-F] Change rein, [X] Working trot

  • The rhythm is most important. Do whatever you need to do to establish a good rhythm in the canter.
"I'm always a little wary of cantering these diagonals because out of nowhere, the horses can just slip into the trot. I almost like to increase the use of my seat coming out of the turn on the diagonal just to maintain the engagement and balance until you are ready to make that trot transition." - PG

12. [A] Circle 20m rising trot, allowing horse to stretch forward and downward, before [A] Shorten reins

  • It doesn't say "Develop the stretch," - it begins at [A] so you should start encouraging your horse to stretch in the corner before [A]
  • You're on a circle, so there's a bend requirement
  • Allow your horse to stretch downward and forward. The stretch is the essence of this movement!
  • You have very little time to balance your trot before the upcoming transition, so you can finish your stretch circle a little before [A] in order to anticipate that movement

✍️ TAKE NOTE:  There is a bend requirement here (for Peter, this would be worth about 0.5 of the score).

"I see a lot of stretches going forward but now downward. I'm quite strict about my marking on this. I don't care how lovely the trot is, if you're not showing much of a stretch, you're not getting much of a score." - PG

13. [K] Working canter right lead

  • Aim for a crisp transition right at [K]

14. [V] Lengthen stride in canter, continue lengthening on half circle right 20m, [E-B] Circle right 20m, continue lengthening to [P]

  • Shorten a stride before [P] so you can show the transition from lengthen to working between [P] and [F]

15. [Between P and F] Working canter

⚠️ This can be difficult for younger horses

"I think with the younger horses, this is a difficult movement in bringing the horse back to the working canter on a straight line, rather than on a circle, which they offered us at the training level, which was very nice." - PG

16. [A] Working trot

  • Horses can be a little slow to get into this first step of trot after the canter, so make sure you practice this at home and understand how far in front of [A] you need to start initiating this downward transition
  • This transition tends to be quite late - make sure you're someone who gets an accurate transition at [A]
  • You want the first stride of trot to happen when your horse’s shoulders pass the letter [A]

17. [K-R] Change rein, lengthen stride in trot, [R] Working trot

  • Your horse should be nicely forward from the leg at this point – this is a great movement to help conclude the test

18. [S] Half circle left 10m to centerline

"It's not [S] turn left, but we actually make a half circle beginning at [S]. Please show bend, show suppleness, show freedom of the trot. We want to balance the trot enough that we can manage to stay on the geometry of the half 10m circle, but let's finish with a nice supple and active trot to get a good mark." - PG

19. [G] Halt; salute

  • Remember to keep your horse straight here.

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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