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Posted on Jan 13, 2020 in Riders blog, Top tips



By Kate Cowell Dressage

Understanding aspects to help make a top test:
Scales of training
Fluency and Harmony
Ease of movements
Degree of risk
Mistake free
Horse is a happy athlete

Let’s talk about these in more detail:

1) The scales of training are a German systematic approach of training which riders, trainers and judges adhere to:
Rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, collection
You achieve each one in order as the horse develops his education and training up the levels from novice to advanced.

2)Ease of movements are achieved if the scales of training have been accomplished. The horse can demonstrate the movements securely with confidence and energy. The horse is confront of the leg and on the aids.

3) Accuracy riding from market to marker, again demonstrating that the horse is on the aids. Circles are the right size, lines are straight, corners are ridden.

4)Fluency and Harmony where the test flows easily and with no restriction, tension or resistance. The horse looks supple, elastic, engaged and confident.

5)Showmanship is where the rider is able to ride with confidence and intelligence to showcase the horse in its best light.

6) Degree of risk relates to where the rider decides how much effort to put into a movement to gain maximum marks, thus increasing the risk of potentially making a mistake. He who dares wins!

7) Mistake free tests with no glitches, mess ups, spooks or error of course.

8) A happy athlete is a horse that looks well, happy and calm which has been achieved through harmonious education (not through force or fear)

How do I relate this to my competition test riding?

A) At home with your trainer/training mirrors:
Get excellent basics through the the scales of training. Perfect your transitions, half halts, straightness. Responsiveness to your aids and submission
Work on your position. Develop your poise so it becomes autonomous
[My goal: I focus on my symmetry]
Mentally focus on accuracy when you practise your movements
Off the horse: practise the test through mental visualisation
:Sit in with judges to see their perspective and translate to your own test riding.
:If you want to maximise your marks you ultimately need to show the judge what they want to see!

B)Pre- Competition Test Riding:
Ride through the test, this will expose the weaknesses. ‘re-evaluate and go back to your training plan. Videoing the test will help hugely as it often looks different from how it feels in a test situation.
Practise training at different venues to ensure your horse can cope with other stimuli

Stick to a good warm up plan. Have confidence in all your preparation you’ve done at home. Don’t “win the warm up”; aim to have your horse right for the test. This may take several months to get right, and you may need a trial and error approach.
Not the same approach works for each horse!
[Tip: I have one advanced horse that is far more successful if I warm up for only 25minutes. Another advanced horse needs stretching for 20 minutes, a rest in the stable then another 30 minutes warm up before the test.]

Key movements to gain marks easily:

1) Enter down centre line, halt, salute, proceed in trot.
Anyone can achieve a minimum of 8/10 for this if you are super straight, achieve a square halt, stand immobility and proceed in trot which again is straight and submissive. Practice centre lines and square halts around the school.

2) Circles
Big or small they need to be the right size and perfectly symmetrical. Keeping the horses frame, rhythm and balance the same throughout. Count the strides and achieve the same on both reins.

Transitions are key. Within the pace and from one pace to the other, they need to be seamless, smooth and submissive. Repeat until you have perfection! The horse needs to be really confront of the leg.
[Tip:80% of my schooling is transitional work. I even do transitions in my lateral movements]

4) Corners
These set you up for the next movement and will increase your score. The more you use them the easier they become, and the more helpful they are!
[My goal: I will often do a transition through the corner to ensure I focus on them]

5) Take risk on the movements you know you can do well to maximise your marks.

Post test analysis: at home work on the area of your lower marks but also keep developing your strengths. Keep in mind to keep moving forward, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut! Introducing new movements and techniques can really develop your horse and your partnership. Aiming to train at a level higher than your competing at usually guarantees better results.

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