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.
Note: This is a challenging test in terms of rideability and placement of transitions. Peter recommends a sensible and thoughtful warmup to prepare for this test.
Before you enter the arena
Go around the arena clockwise. This will help get the horse supple and ready to track right.
1. [A] Enter working trot, [C] Track right
Make the [C] track right smooth, like a half circle with bend. You want to show suppleness and fluency in the turn
2. [M-E] Change rein, [E] Circle left 15m
Arrive at [E] one meter to the right of [E] to give you time to begin your circle accurately at [E]. If you aim for [E] and end up slightly on either side of it, your circle will be misshapen.
If you have no hoof prints to follow, eyeball between [C] and the corner to see where the three-quarter line is. That is where your circle should go to.
3. [K] Working canter left lead
Get rid of the bend in your horse’s body between [E] and [K], but maintain a little left flexion to give the appearance of softness, submission, and straightness. This will also prepare us for a softer contact as we transition to the canter at [K].
When picking up the canter going toward the corner of the arena like this, make sure you don’t go too deep into the corner.
Instead of going deep into the corner, get to [K] and start turning through that corner as if it's a quarter of a circle. You don’t want your horse to find himself right up against the short side and lose his balance.
4. [F-B-E] Lengthen stride in canter on half circle left 20m
There’s a lot of opportunity for the judge to see this lengthened canter because it is continued from the wall onto a half circle.
Don’t accelerate entirely at [F]; instead, build gradually and maintain balance as you go.
Lengthen both the stride and the frame.
5. [E and B] Develop working canter on half circle left 20m
"It's so nice for the young horses to develop that transition from lengthened to working canter on a circle and not a straight line. I really like how the writers of this test have created this movement." -PG
6. [M] Working trot
Your horse may be a little on the forehand and against the contact. Make sure you round off the turn after [M] and flow with your horse on a soft rein. Show suppleness in the corner.
The key is to make it look like your horse has the balance you intended.
7. [H-X-F] Change rein, lengthen stride in trot, [F] Working trot
No bend, no flexion here. You want equal pressure in both hands and legs
Aim a little to the left of [F] so you don’t get too deep in the corner.
Build quietly into a lengthened stride. Use the centerline [X] as a guideline for where to finish the lengthen and maintain your pace.
Make a strong transition back to a very balanced working trot in preparation for your next circle. Ensure there is not too much momentum going into this circle.
8. [A] Circle right 20m, rising trot, allowing the horse to stretch forward and downward, Before [A] Shorten reins
Remember that it is very difficult for horses to stretch when there is a lot of momentum in the trot and they’ve lost engagement.
Your horse’s nose needs to be forward of the vertical, seeking contact down and forward.
Shorten your reins before you reach [A]. Shorten the stride of your trot as well because more than likely your stride got longer during the stretch circle.
"This is sneaky of the test writers. We have a lengthened stride and then within 12m, we have to start a stretch circle. It's very difficult for horses to stretch when there's a lot of momentum in the trot. When you get to [F], make a strong transition to a very balanced working trot to prepare for the stretch circle. If you just allow that momentum to go into the stretch circle, they're not going to be consistent with the stretch and they may be not great with the geometry either." -PG
9. [Between A and K] Medium walk
Aim for a balanced transition here following the stretch circle.
10. [K-X-M] Change rein free walk
Walk with a purpose. Judges look for a ground-covering march.
The most important thing here is your horse’s frame: his poll should be slightly lower than its withers, with his nose forward seeking the contact confidently.
Have a light feel of the reins.
11. [M] Medium walk, [C] Working trot
Round off the corner (instead of getting deep into it) with bend to reduce the likelihood of your horse getting tense.
You’re right in front of the judge here, so be sure to have an accurate transition.
The first step of trot should appear as the horse’s shoulder is passing the letter [C].
Make sure you practice and know how much leg it takes to make this transition smooth.
"This is a great place to be asked for the medium walk rather than on a straight line. Rounding off the corner with bend will reduce the likelihood of your horse getting tense." -PG
12. [H-B] Change rein, [B] Circle right 15m
Aim slightly to the left of [B] in preparation for your next circle.
Once again, the circle lining up the three-quarter line.
Maintain flexion to the inside.
13. [F] Working canter right lead
Make sure you continue your canter in a rounded corner to help your horse maintain his balance.
14. [K-E-B] Lengthen stride in canter on half circle right 20m
Keep the lengthen going all the way from [E] to [B].
15. [B-E] Develop working canter on half circle right 20m
On the second half of the circle, you can take your time to progressively add leg while maintaining activity to come back to the working canter.
16. [H] Working trot
Round off your corner to maintain balance.
Keep showmanship in mind (make this look like it happened exactly the way you planned it!).
You want a nice, big trot as you round off the turn.
17. [M-X-K] Lengthen stride in trot, [K] Working trot
Stay straight in the body and neck.
18. [A] Down the centerline
Do this by executing a half circle with bend.
Don’t get overly confident in the long centerline and let your horse build too much here.
Maintain an even tempo and balance all the way from [A] to [G].
"This is a long way down the centerline. I would be careful because sometimes riders get a little overly confident in that very long centerline. They feel the horse building and get a sense that they're creating a flashy trot, but that'll backfire when you get to the halt because you'll find that your horse is not responsive and off-balance. Maintain an even tempo and even balance all the way from [A] to [G]." -PG
19. [G] Halt; salute
Salute the judge with a smile!
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
💡 PETER'S TIP: 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.
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