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How To Maximize Your Score When Competing In Dressage

Hi Edward here,

This time I’m going to be talking about how to maximise your score when competing in dressage.

Tips before competing:

  1. Make sure that you know your test
  2. Practice the test lots, to ensure that both you and the horse can perform each movement correctly. When practicing try to work on certain movements at a time and then once perfected move onto the next.
  3. Read the directives next to the movements. This is what the judges will be focussing on as well as the scales of training to help them come to a mark, so when it says straightness and evenness of contact down the centre line focus on achieving this. If you struggle to feel this, try and get someone to video you from C so you can see it from the judges viewpoint.
  4. Ensure that you and the horse have the correct attire for competing. BD legal tack and equipment is a must, ensure you pack everything including gloves and numbers as these are easily missed.
  5. Make sure you know where the movement ends and starts on your sheet. This can come in handy if something goes wrong.

Tips at the show:

  1. When you arrive go and declare that you are here with the steward and double check your time and see if they are running on time.
  2. See where you will be competing and warming up.
  3. When in the warmup ensure that you know the etiquette and that you abide by it.
  4. When warming up, try and warmup the same you have done at home, don’t try anything different, try and keep the horses focused on you and relaxed. If you think you are running ahead ask the collecting ring steward if there are any withdrawals that you could go in.
  5. Before going to compete ensure you know the test fully, the horses boots are off, you have removed any communication systems (e.g. AXIWI) and you are looking presentable.

In the ring:

  1. When in the ring, ride around the edge showing the judge/writer your number.
  2. You have lots of time as soon as you enter the arena before your bell so make sure that you use it. Walk, trot, canter, transitions, lateral work ect is all allowed, make sure your horse is awake and focussed. Always keep moving and never slow to wait for the judge, as your horse may lose focus and struggle to get it back.
  3. When entering the arena, enter on the same rein as the way you will turn as C. e.g. if you are turning left at C enter on the left rein. This can help improve straightness on the centreline.
  4. Keep the horse forward throughout and when riding each movement think about what the directives said, e.g. if you are on a medium trot it says regularity, lengthening of steps, swing through the back and balance.
  5. And most importantly enjoy it!

After the test:

  1. Cool of your horse, ensure that they think it is a positive experience.
  2. Untack, load, ect and wait for the test sheet
  3. Once the test sheet and marks have been released you can now go home
  4. If you got someone to video you, its always great to compare the comments of the judge with the video to see where you got praised and where could have been improved.
  5. Work on the bits you didn’t do so well with the hope next time you compete you get a higher score.

Dressage competitions are a great way of gaining feedback of your horse in a different venue. Some horses perform differently in other arenas so don’t be annoyed if you think your horse didn’t go as well as you would have hoped. The horse normally needs more experience and confidence.

I hope this helps everyone improve their score in their next dressage test, do let horsemart and equinetuition know how it went,

Until next time,


Edward Chitty (Equine Tuition)
British Dressage Judge
Published on 17-04-2019
Edward Chitty is one of the youngest listed British Dressage judges in the UK. He has been based at one of the UK’s biggest equestrian centres for over 5 years, where he has been helping to run and organise the shows. Edward is a British Dressage Judge and UKCC L2 Showjumping Coach. He has recently been appointed as an FEI campus level 1 course designer.