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Posted by in about horses, above the bit, accurate, aids to canter, allowing a horse to stretch, anticipation, attention, back, Blog, body, calm, canter, canter execises, canter exercise, canter exercises for a fast horse, canter to trot, canter to trot transitions, canter to walk, canter transition strong pulling, canter transitions, canter transitions. centre line exercise. leg aids for canter., canter when to use your legs, collapsing to the inside, consistent, contact, crooked canter, crooked halt, crooked in a canter transition, dressage, dressage test riding, even out your rein contact, falling in, falling out, forwardness, free walk on a long rein, free walk to medium walk, freeing the back, get your horse going, get your horse listening., getting your horse in your hand, go forward, goals, hocks, horse not engaged in walk, horse on the forehand, horse sets its neck, horse tight to the inside, horse won't stand still, horse won't stay out on a circle, how to even up both sides, how to keep a contact, how to keep your horse balanced from canter to trot, immobility, impulsion, inside bend, inside bend and straightness, inside leg, interesting schooling, keep a contact, lazy horse, lazy horses, leaning, leaning on the bit, leg to hand, legs, lengthened strides, loosening shoulders of horse and rider, nose tipping, on the bit, on the forehand, outline, pace, position, position for rising and sitting trot, positive thinking, rein contact, relax, responsiveness, rhythm, rider faults, schooling, schooling rota, schooling routine, simple change, sitting trot, slowing down, slowing horse down, softness, softness through the back, something to do, square halt, Stiffness, stop horse falling out through shoulder. get control of the shoulder, stop your horse rushing into trot, tension in the horse's mouth, things to do, thumbs on top, tightening the back in canter transitions, turning, upper body, using the outside leg, using the outside rein, walk, walk and trot exercises, warming up your horse, won't go straight after a circle, wrong leg on Sep 22, 2012

Do you think you can’t improve your horse unless you’re riding? Think again! Next time the Heaven’s open dig about in your boot bag and take another look at an old test sheet or two and see what you can do to improve on your score.


First  find the highest mark you were given. It doesn’t matter if that’s a 9 or a 5 – if it’s the highest then it’s what you have to aim for. Then look at the other boxes and the judge’s comments to find out why you didn’t score as well.


Try to imagine when a judge watches your test they’ll start with a 10 in their head and deduct marks for errors. Take the centre line as an example. You enter – they’re thinking 10. Then your horse swishes his tail, throws his quarters out, slows down or does his best impersonation of a giraffe and the marks start to drop off.


Go back to your test sheet and look at it with fresh eyes. From reading the scores and the judge’s comments you’ll see where you lose concentration, stop riding or throw marks away for inaccuracy. If you can score a 7 for your entry why did you lose marks for the change of rein or 20m circle that followed? Is there really any reason you should have done? (It doesn’t matter if you do the whole test above the bit – if you get a 6 for your centre line you should be getting them right the way through.)


All horses and riders have things they find harder than others. Some struggle with free walk, others medium trot or canter – others find smooth canter transitions impossible. The thing to remember and focus on is the things you find easy. These are the places you’re losing marks – not those specific nightmare boxes. If your horse can enter on a 7 he can turn the next corner, change the rein or complete a 20m circle on a 7.


Look at the sheet again. Look at the marks after your problem box. How are they affected by it? Do you forget it and move on or do you stay tense and spoil the next few boxes? Just because your horse can’t lengthen is that any reason to let him rush the next corner and hollow as he passes C?


Judge’s comments are really helpful. They highlight ‘problem boxes’ and show up areas where you are throwing away unnecessary marks. Look for comments like nose tipped to left/right, tempo hurried, circle too small, late to trot, lacks rhythm, balance or impulsion. These are all things you can sort out without too much difficulty. Your horse doesn’t need to be an equine athlete. YOU just need to improve your test riding.


Comments like hollowed, head up to canter, rushed, no real lengthening shown, quarters in, wrong lead and halt not square all highlight problem areas. These need more time spent on them. Here are a whole bunch of links for –  canter problems –  Medium trot and lengthened strides here – Rhythm and impulsion here – Walk and free walk on a long rein here  – Halt  – and finally ON THE BIT!!


Whilst a lot of test riding is about what and where you’re going don’t forget about how you’re asking. Your position and your use of the aids all affect your horse’s reaction and response. Check out these posts for simple, easy to follow tips that will make a real difference to the way you ride –

Next time you look out of the window and it’s tipping it down don’t waste time moaning about it. Do something constructive and de-construct your dressage test. Why waste time and energy slogging around the block in the rain wishing you hadn’t bothered? That’s exactly what your horse will be thinking!


Good luck and enjoy your schooling.


Check out the Read to Succeed  series of 99p schooling guides if you want to take a more detailed look at how to prepare for your test. Or why not look at Get Started 3 which offers you good advice on all test riding – whatever your level. For things to do that tackle boredom and problems try the four guides in the Teach Yourself series.

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