Ruth competes at Prelim and Novice level and is also one of the people behind Dressage Anywhere, hosting monthly online dressage competitions. In this blog, Ruth takes a look at what the dressage judge is looking for and the valuable resources you can tap into.
Know what the judge is looking for
I’ve been known to learn a dressage test in the car on the way to an event and had mixed success. There are times when just focussing on the task in hand to ignore any elements of doubt or anxiety works but it’s not a strategy I’d advocate!
Instead, I believe preparation is key. There are so many clues available as to what the judge is looking for – the test sheet itself includes a set of directives that the judge uses to assess your performance.
Let’s take the first movement is every test, A: Enter in working trot and proceed down the centre line – sounds simple, doesn’t it? But the centre line movement appears twice in your test so getting it right can really make a difference in your marks.
Do you know what the judge is looking for here? Straightness, evenness of contact and balance are the directives on a Prelim test sheet. Have a think about how you can achieve these elements in your training. For the contact, you want to achieve a connection, not using the hands, but using the seat and legs. The contact should be light and even on both reins. Straightness can be challenging particularly if the horse is crooked, but the aim is for the hind legs to step into the track of the forelegs. A useful exercise I use is to ride along the long side and at the E or B marker turn diagonally towards A or C, then half 10 metre circle left or right (depending on which rein you’re riding) and repeat on the new rein. I find this encourages the inside hind to step through and improves his balance.
As you progress further up the levels accuracy in your test riding becomes more important. Transitions at markers may be progressive at the lower levels and as you progress it becomes more important to make transitions as you pass a marker. Circle accuracy can really help to boost your marks and it can be tricky to avoid riding a square (how many of us have heard the term ‘squircle’ from our trainers?) or a rugby ball. Some trainers recommend imagining riding the points on a diamond but I prefer to picture and ride the two halves separately.
Scales of Training
A very useful resource is the Scales of Training, found in the British Dressage Members’ Handbook. You’ll see it referenced on every test sheet and I urge you to have a look at it! The Scales of Training are:
- And eventually, collection.
Understanding these will help guide you towards what the judge expects to see in your test and they are used to form the directives listed against each movement, so get familiar with them and think about how you can apply them in your training.
Look for the positives
Even if your test doesn’t go to plan, maybe your horse jogged out of the free walk or broke canter, it’s important that you take time to review your scoresheet and note the positives. Perhaps you nailed that centre line and it’s reflected in the marks from the judge! Make sure you take away some positives even if there are areas you need to work on.
Dressage Anywhere has led the way, bringing a modern approach to dressage for eight years, providing opportunities for all levels of rider and making competitive dressage more accessible.
Who is online dressage for?
Competing in dressage online is for just about anybody! Whether you’re new to dressage or an experienced competitor, there are classes and levels for everyone. Some riders with young horses find it a useful tool to get feedback on how they’re doing. Other more established partnerships just enjoy having another mechanism for competing without leaving their yard. Online dressage is perfect for riders who don’t have their own transport or even their own horse – at Dressage Anywhere we have many riders competing on riding school horses. It can be a really fun way of taking part with the opportunity to win prizes and rosettes.
What is online dressage all about?
Online dressage competitions have been around for a few years now (Dressage Anywhere is one of the pioneers and has been hosting online dressage classes for eight years) and they’re becoming popular with riders around the world. So what it is it all about and how do you get involved?
It’s a really simple concept – ride your test, have someone film it for you from the judge’s position at C and then upload the video for judging. It really is as easy as that.
At Dressage Anywhere we run our online dressage competitions as closely to live competitions as possible, maintaining the high standards that you would expect from a venue, but also getting those new to dressage ready for live competitions. We’ve built a comprehensive system to automate as much of the process as possible. We only work with British Dressage List 1, 2 and FEI judges, these are the judges that regularly judge the likes of Carl and Charlotte! Our competitors don’t need to wait for the post – scoresheets are available online for easy access and download and you can review all of your competition performances and results on your own personal profile.
To get involved register for free at www.dressageanywhere.com and have a look at our monthly schedules.