Helpful Tips

Tips From a Dressage Judge: 2022 USEF Training Test A

View and print the 2022 USEF Training Test A.

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

Screenshot of a Ride iQ track of 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] Enter working trot, [C] Track left

  • Remember on the centerline, have equal contact in both hands and both legs, with no bend or flexion. 
  • Ride [C] track left like a [G] half circle left. Do not go deep in the corner here.
“Focus on something in the distance, and squeeze your legs for a slower paced trot, like squeezing a tube of toothpaste. Try to get that centerline as straight as you can.” -PG

2. [K-D] Half circle left 10m, returning to track at [E]

  • On the long side, you don’t have bend, but you should have some flexion inwards to give the appearance of softness and submission.
  • Aim one meter to the left of [E] so you can make a smooth turn at [E].

3. [H] Working canter right lead

  • Round off the corner to avoid disrupting your horse’s rhythm and balance.

4. [C] Circle right 20m, developing lengthen stride in canter, [Approaching C] Develop working canter

  • Build in the first quadrant of your circle, maintain the lengthen for half of the circle, then in the final quadrant, slow the canter back down.

5. [M-X-K] Change rein, [X] Working trot

  • Your horse might be a little unbalanced at the trot, so soften the rein and be ready to go nicely forward with a soft contact to give the appearance of fluidity and engagement.
"[If your horse is unbalanced], go a little forward with your upper body. Go nicely forward with a great big smile on your face, and just fudge it a little bit that the trot is as nice as it looks." -PG

6. [A] Circle left 20m rising trot, allowing the horse to stretch forward and downward, [Before A] Shorten reins

  • The stretch with young horses is easier to achieve with a little reduced pace in the trot, so start slowing and balancing from [K] to [A] and bend to get them supple.

✍️ TAKE NOTE: The bend on this circle is 0.5 of a mark. The horse should be consistently stretching down and forward.

7. [Between A and F] Medium walk

  • Don’t go too deep in the corner here; your horse may be a little on the forehand here already.
"In a moment where we have bend, we are more likely to have softness." -PG

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

  • The poll should be lower than the wither; the nose should be forward in front of the vertical, and the neck should be stretching down and forward.
  • No bend or flexion in the body. Use more seat than leg to encourage marching without risking a jog step.

9. [H] Medium walk, [M] working trot

  • Shorten your reins and continue balancing in the turn between [H] and [C]. This will help get your horse back on the contact and soft in the connection.
  • You need to be in trot as your horse’s shoulders pass [M]. This transition is commonly late.
  • Remember to show flexion inwards at [M].

10. [F-D] Half circle right 10m, returning to track at [B]

  • You should show the same amount of bend as you showed to the left.

11. [M] Working canter left lead

  • Same as on the other side, round off the corner here.

12. [C] Circle left 20m, developing lengthen strides in canter, [Approaching C] Develop working canter

  • As you did on the other side: the first quadrant should be building, the middle half should be maintaining, and the final quadrant should be balancing back to working canter.
  • Remember that the frame should also be lengthening, not just the stride. 

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

  • Be ready to soften at [X] and go forward, making it look like you have beautiful balance even if your horse is slightly against you and on the forehand.
  • Round off the next two corners as you go by the short side at [A].

14. [K-X-M] Lengthen stride in trot, [M] Working trot

  • Make sure that, once you achieve an adequate lengthen, you don’t keep asking for more. Maintain a good quality lengthen all the way until [M].

✍️ TAKE NOTE: At home, you should identify if your horse is better building into the lengthen trot at a lower poll, or if he’s better showing off the lengthened stride more uphill.

15. [E] Half circle left 10m to centerline

  • Make sure you finish the test showing suppleness – i.e., show bend and balance on this half circle.

16. [G] Halt; salute

  • Don’t be afraid to add 1-2 steps in the halt if that helps you have a smooth and balanced transition. Be sure to keep both legs on to maintain straightness and show immobility for 3 seconds.

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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