View and print the 2022 USEF Starter Test

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

Screenshot of a Ride iQ track cover for an Eventing Dressage Playbook episode

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

1. [A-X-M] Enter working trot, [M] Track left

  • Make this like a dog-leg as opposed to a bending line.
  • Start showing some bend to the right about 2m before [X], then straighten in the head and neck as you come toward [M]. Aim 1m to the right of [M] to avoid boxing yourself in the corner.
  • At [M] track left, show suppleness by staying out of the corner and creating some bend in your horse’s body and neck.

2. [E] Circle left 20m

  • The key elements of this circle are: having an even tempo and showing suppleness (i.e., bend).

✍️ TAKE NOTE: At this level, the horse is not expected to be on the bit, but rather accepting contact confidently.

3. [A] Circle left 20m, developing left lead canter in first quarter of circle

  • Pick up the canter in the first two strides, because you’ll still have the rails of the long side to help balance.

4. [Between A and B] Working trot

  • While there is a lot of optionality for where you make your trot transition, consider making it shortly after [A] while you’re on the bend of the corner. Waiting until you’re on the long side risks your horse tipping on his forehand and being less balanced.

5. [Between M and C] Medium walk

  • There is once again, lots of optionality for where your transition takes place.

✍️ TAKE NOTE: Making down transitions when there is bend in a horse’s body encourages them to be softer in the contact and less resistant.

"I would make the transition right in the middle [between M and C] in the meat of the corner where you're going to have the most bend in the horse's body." -PG

6. [H-X-F] Change rein free walk

  • Change the level of the poll from your medium walk (above the wither), to below the wither, with the neck stretching forward and downward.
  • There should be no bend of flexion on the diagonal line.

7. [Between F and A] Develop medium walk

  • This is another nice opportunity to develop the medium walk on the bend.
  • The poll should be slightly above the wither again here.

8. [Between A and K] Working trot

9. [E] Circle right 20m

  • Again, the key ingredients are an even tempo, bend in the body and neck, and flexion in the poll, while confidently accepting the contact.

10. [C] Circle right 20m, developing right lead canter on first quarter of circle

  • Same as on the other side, pick up the canter in the first stride or two.

11. [Between C and B] Working trot

  • Same as on the other side, make this transition on the bend to encourage softness.

12. [K-X-G] Onto centerline

  • This is the dog-leg line again to finish – aim 2m before [X] and bend onto the centerline.

13. [G] Halt through the walk, salute.

  • Practice these halt transitions at home to figure out how soon you need to initiate the walk from the trot, including a couple of steps of walks before the halt.
  • The letter [G] should be aligned with your horse’s shoulder.

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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