WE United member and “R” judge Kim Peterson, New South Wales, Australia, wrote the following reflection on things to consider as you are training for and riding your WE Dressage tests. Of course, the advice applies equally well to other forms of dressage. We hope you find Kim’s suggestions helpful.
After judging 40 dressage tests yesterday, I became aware of some common mistakes.
I noticed many horse are not traveling on the centreline at both the beginning and end of their tests. When you enter at A and travel down the centreline it is the first time the judge gets to assess the combination. lt is important to make a good first impression! Make sure you hit that centreline straight with good activity which will help you execute a quality halt. At the halt make sure you smile as you make eye contact with the judge. If the competitor shows they are enjoying their ride it is human nature to want to score them well.
Many riders halted a couple of metres past x , this will lower your score.Keep energy in the halt, this will enable the horse to step forward with power and straightness. To achieve a quality turn at C ,I start to bend in the direction of the turn three strides before it is to be executed. This sets the horse up for a fluid turn. Sharp, unbalanced turns at C will lower your marks. At the end of the test more riders than not overshot the centreline. Do not give away marks on poor accuracy ! Prepare your turn down the CL, look ahead and ride an accurate flowing turn.
A large number of riders started their circles after the designated letter. If a twenty metre circle is called for at B the horse should be turning on the circle at B not two strides after. When riding the diagonal from M to K be sure to leave the track before M and head back to the track slightly before K. This will help you achieve the best possible score. I see riders pass M before turning on the diagonal and return to the track after K. This is sloppy riding and will score accordingly.
Riding good corners is imperative, it sets the horse up to flow into the next movement in the correct manner. If the horse has the incorrect bend and is falling on the riders inside leg in the corner it is not likely that the next movement will be executed with quality.
Yesterday, only one out of the forty or so horses were able to execute a circle allowing the horse to stretch forward and downward. In this movement the judge is looking for the horse to stretch over the back into a light contact , maintaining balance and quality of trot. Many horses came behind the vertical and curled through the neck others hollowed. . Many lost tempo and started to rush when the rein were offered to them. As I mentioned, only one horse remained on the contact and was able to strech forward and downward. This tells me that many riders do not have a clear understanding of riding with a true connection.
Another movement where riders lost marks was retaking the reins from the free walk to medium walk. Some horses showed tension and broke gaite as they resumed the medium walk. In my horses daily training session I do many transitions into and out of the free walk. After retaking the reins into the medium walk I tend to execute some lateral movements in walk before going back up the paces. Doing this helps the horse realise walk is a pace in which we school not only a rest period between gaites, thus preventing anticipation and tension.
I learn by my own and others’ mistakes! Hopefully my observations may help you improve your results in the dressage phase of working equitation.