Seven ways to squeeze extra marks out of your dressage tests


Seven ways to squeeze extra marks out of your dressage tests

In Eventing or pure Dressage, every mark matters on the leaderboard. Countless competitions are won or lost by just a fraction of a percentage point. There is no worse feeling than exiting the dressage ring knowing you left some marks on the table. Sometimes it is obvious that you threw some marks away, but often riders don’t even realize where they cost themselves valuable marks. This year, make it your goal to squeeze every single mark out those dressage judges each time you head down centreline. Follow this straightforward advice to earn the scores that you may not have even known that you are capable of pulling off in that white box…

1) Nail every halt. You do not need a horse with flashy movement to score a ’10’ on your halts. If you watch some of best dressage riders in our sport such as Michael Jung, you will notice that they rarely blow a halt. A beautiful square and immobile halt is a product of consistent training at home. Follow the guide below to transform yourself into the halting master.


2) Come down centreline looking THE BEST. Like it or not, first impressions are everything. If you trot around the ring and down centreline looking like a slob you are going to make a certain not-so-great impression on the judge. No top riders head into the dressage ring looking anything less than immaculately turned out. You need to groom your horse to the nines and make sure your tack is spotless. Check out the articles below to look like a winner.


3) Accuracy is everything. You can ride the best extended trot ever but if you are not accurate to the letter and your transitions in and out of it are a little sloppy it won’t score well at all. So many riders are guilty of riding fabulous quality gaits but tossing marks out the window by executing movements carelessly. Learn to ride with dead accuracy in the ring and look where you are going to ensure you are on your marks. The advice in the article below will help you clean up your accuracy act.


4) Know your test like the back of your hand. Going off course in the dressage ring will automatically cost you two marks, throw you off your game when the judge rings the bell and possibly give them a poor impression of you (judges are human too). It is essential that you memorize your test correctly and practice it. You can never review your test to many times in your mind and a final check before you hop on your horse and head to warm-up can be invaluable. Also, make sure you read it correctly. I have misread and/or misunderstood dressage test movements and it has cost me in the ring. When in doubt, ask your trainer! Make it your mission this year to ride every single test totally correctly.



5) Give yourself and your horse the ideal warm-up. You cannot deliver your best test if your warm-up was garbage. You need to know your horse and give yourself the right amount of time to provide it with the perfect warm-up. Keep in mind hotter or colder weather can impact your warm-up plans. Time your rides when you are just training to learn what works best for your horse. And remember, never pick a fight with your horse in warm-up! You are not going to do any last minute training 20 minutes before your test. Use your time in the warm-up to get yourself and your horse settled and suppled. You want to show your horse off in the dressage ring and the warm-up is your chance to get it going its best.

6) Walk like you mean it. Similar to halts, a lot of riders cost themselves marks by not really riding the walk. Of course, you have to train your horse how to walk like a champ in your daily work. The walk is kind of the neglected gait, which is silly because it is not that hard to train and it worth quite a few marks in your tests. Read the article below to improve your horse’s walk to gain some extra marks this season.


7) Study your past tests and review footage of yourself in action. The top athletes in all sports review their game footage so they can improve their future performances. Always try to have someone video your tests at competitions and in practice ride your test and have a friend video it for you. Watch this footage so you can see for yourself where you are going wrong. Also, pick up all your dressage test score sheets and read them over. Judges make comments on what your mistakes are and you can use this to help guide you in the right direction. Take your dressage seriously and quit watching cat videos on the internet and start watching your own riding so you can make necessary improvements.

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