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Equestrian Advice & Guides Beginners Advice
Every dressage test starts with the centre line. This is the first impression you will make on the judge, so make it count!
Look at the judge (don’t forget to smile – you're supposed to be having fun!), ride through a nice corner at the end of the line, be prepared and don’t leave it too late. When it comes to halting, make sure it’s straight (square is secondary, it if isn’t straight then square won’t matter), salute and trot off promptly – whilst still straight, of course.
Straight is the key here, did you pick that up?
Focus on the accuracy of your movements and figures, ensuring you’re not just getting your transitions at the markers, but also making sure your circles are round and the right size. A 15m circle isn’t supposed to be a sort of roundish 13m oblong/oval. Correct and equal shapes are key in Dressage. Ride straight diagonal lines from letter to letter, with good corners at the beginning and end.
Top tip – Don’t aim for the marker, aim slightly in front, as this will ensure your body will match up with the marker.
Ok, we all know what rhythm is – it’s #1 on the training triangle – but what I mean here is consistency throughout your test. The same trot, the same canter and the same walk. Go for smooth, even if it feels a bit lazy. Let it be what it is at the start, rather than trying to correct by kicking, shoving and making it look messy, as it will just look like you’re over riding. If your pace is too fast, try to ride quietly and let the corners and circles help slow you down, rather than careering around the arena. I know this sounds easier than it actually is sometimes, but it will happen. Don’t rush to get the test over and done with, let each marker and movement come to you slowly.
Make it look like you’re having a good time and your horse is nice to ride. You don’t want to look like an over-stressed rider in panic mode. This takes practice, so schooling shows are a good way to help settle your nerves. Practise, practise, practise, and do your test over and over until it IS easy. Part of the experience is doing the warm-up and the test at your (very specific) designated time, and not whenever you are ready at home in practice. Do a nice long warm-up, making sure the horse is focused on you and not the surroundings. Some people just have a knack of being able to show off in the ring, and some people need to learn how to do it and look confident even though they’re not (like me)!
We, as riders, get a lot more nervous than the horses, so we need to practise more for us than them. The horses will pick up the pattern quickly and start anticipating it. Instead of over doing it on horseback, start visualising the perfect test. Run through it in your front room. Not only will it help you memorise your test, but will get you in the grove of doing it as fantastically as you can. It’s also a super way to get "in the zone” just before you get on for your warm-up.
Go out and DO IT!!
Then review your marks, and this will give you guidelines on what areas you need to work on at home.