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.
This test will be held in a 20m X 60m arena.
1. [A] Enter working trot, [X] Halt; salute, proceed working trot, [C] Track left
You’ll get a better mark for halting through 1-2 smooth steps of walk, compared to halting abruptly without walk steps.
Be sure you show immobility for three seconds.
Show the fluency of the trot by rounding off the turn at [C] track left like a half circle.
2. [S] Circle left 10m, [E] Turn left
"I think at any level of competition, 10-meters of trot are difficult, to be honest. The horse will really need your leg and outside rein to support and help him with the balance of that 10-meter circle so he maintains the tempo, activity, and a certain degree of engagement, and of course (most importantly) shows bend, which we call suppleness." -PG
3. [B] Track right, [P] Circle right 10m
It’s easy to get a great mark for [E] turn left and [B] track right, yet it’s common for people to receive a poor score.
Judges look for the quality of the trot, so keep the trot forward and round off the turns like an ‘S'.
4. [A] Turn right down centerline, [D-S] Leg yield left
As with all turns onto and off the centerline, ride it like a half circle with bend.
The leg yield should demonstrate consistent position and tempo.
Having the forehand slightly leading in the leg yield is preferred over having the haunches slightly leading.
5. [H] Working canter right lead
This is a great place to pick up the canter, since your horse is already engaged following the leg yield.
6. [M-P] Lengthen stride in canter
Be careful not to accelerate, but instead, gradually build a longer stride.
Make sure you show lengthening of both the frame and the stride.
7. [P] Circle right 15m, developing working canter in first half of circle
8. [F] Working trot
Show the quality and freedom of trot. Make the first step with light contact.
9. [A] Circle right 20m rising trot, letting the horse stretch forward and down, [Before A] Shorten reins
The essence of the circle is the stretch, but showing bend is worth 0.5 marks.
Make sure your horse is showing stretch throughout the entirety of the circle.
"We're really looking to see the confidence in the horse's connection, and really, the correct pathway of training when we see the stretch circle." -PG
10. [K-R] Lengthen stride in trot, [R] Working trot
This is a great place to ask for a lengthened trot, because your horse’s back muscles should already be engaged following the stretch circle (thank you again, test designers!).
11. [C] Halt; proceed medium walk
Immobility should begin once your horse’s shoulders are in-line with [C].
Be sure to count for three seconds before proceeding medium walk.
Medium walk should involve the poll being consistently above the wither.
12. [H-B] Change rein free walk
The poll should be below the wither in the free walk.
13. [B-K] Change rein medium walk
✍️ TAKE NOTE: Practice this transition at home to ensure your horse does not get tense. Focus on the softness and regularity of the walk.
14. [K] Working trot, [A] Turn left down centerline
Have the first step of trot occur when your horse’s shoulders pass [K].
15. [D-R] Leg yield right
16. [M] Working canter left lead
Again, don’t go too deep in the corner here.
17. [H-V] Lengthen stride in canter
18. [V] Circle left 15m, developing working canter in first half of circle
When transitioning down to the working canter, try to ask for 10% more balance with each step, as opposed to transitioning abruptly. Transitioning gradually will help you maintain rhythm and an even tempo.
19. [K] Working trot
20. [A] Turn left down centerline
21. [X] Halt; salute
Have a stronger leg on the way to [X] to help keep the haunches in-line with the front end – the straightness (or lack thereof) is easy to spot 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?
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