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The thoughts in this article are constantly in my mind when I'm judging at a competition. Attention to achievable details is worth reviewing for everyone involved in dressage.

The use of the historical pyramid of training is a given, and the purpose of each level should be mastered before advancing.

You don't need a top horse to improve your dressage scores. Any rider and horse has the potential to get high scores in some movements of every dressage test.

When ridden correctly, any horse can produce a few 7's, maybe an 8 or 9 or even a 10 in some movements. Although the average horse may receive lower marks on Gaits, there are a lot of other important components to the tests.

Every dressage test contains many simple movements which all horses have the ability to perform accurately. These movements include halts, rein backs, turns on the haunches, and corners. If you're able to ride them well, you'll get higher scores.

Beginning with Training Level, there are 2 halts in every test. The halts are an opportunity to earn the highest marks possible, perhaps a 9 and why not a 10? Practice your halts every time you ride. Make them straight and square and pay attention to the required 3 seconds of immobility and the quality of the transitions in and out. At Second Level, the rein backs are introduced. In the rein back, learn to count accurately, and be sure that your horse is straight. To perform turns on the haunches, focus on correct bend, balance and keep the horse marching.

Ride your corners! Well ridden corners are essential because they set up the next movement. At First Level you are required to ride 10 metre circles so ride your corners as one quarter of a 10 metre circle, and use the same principle as you progress through the levels.

Circles are very important and highly visible to the judge. On a circle, no matter its size, the horse should be correctly bent on a curved line and the circle needs to be round, not square or oval. Remember, there are no straight lines in a circle.

Ride the test accurately from letter to letter.  Make sure that your geometry is correct and your transitions are clear and smooth. Learn the dimensions, distances and exactly where the letters are in the arena. Drawing a diagram of your test will help you with correct geometry. This will also help you ride each movement accurately. Each movement has a beginning and an ending. Even if you go off course, you can resume your focus with the next movement.

All horses are stiffer to one side. Marks will increase when the horse demonstrates equal suppleness in both directions.

Analyze your tests. Take a look at your three weakest areas and formulate a plan to improve them in your daily training. This will be helpful as you work to improve your scores.

Lastly, keep in mind that dressage tests are a simply measure of your training not a goal in themselves.

"The secret in riding is to do only a few things but to do them right." -Nuno Oliveira-


 

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