The Magazine September 2018

The view from C

Posted 24th July 2018

Performing a high-scoring dressage test is all about perfecting your horse’s way of going. Sarah-Jane Prew invites you into the judge’s seat to learn more

riding a dressage test in front of a judge

Have you ever wondered what the judge is thinking as you ride up the centre line? What exactly are they looking for and how can you make sense of the scoring? The marks aren’t awarded at random, there’s method behind the madness and sometimes all it takes is a greater understanding of what judges prioritise.

To help you make sense of it, we’ll take a look at the training scale and how you can use it to tick all the boxes in your warm-up, create and maintain a correct way of going, and earn yourself some valuable collective marks.

Understanding the scale

The training scale is an outline of the basic phases of a horse’s education and they should form the foundation of his training from his earliest rides under saddle, all the way through to the top level of the sport. There are six components…

  • rhythm
  • suppleness
  • contact
  • impulsion
  • straightness
  • collection

By working through each of these in turn, you’ll create a balanced, correctly-produced horse who can perform an accurate test and demonstrate one of those important, but elusive, qualities – throughness. Because dressage is, at heart, a test of the quality of your horse’s training, these factors are prioritised by judges at every level.

Medium walk

As well as the correct sequence of footfalls, judges want to see regularity within the pace. This means the tempo and rhythm stays consistent, and each stride covers the same distance.

All too often, judges see a laboured walk with insufficient purpose. Many riders make the mistake of asking their horse to shorten his neck too much or incorrectly, which shortens his stride and can affect the rhythm.

In fact your horse should quietly accept the bit and walk freely forward, moderately lengthening his frame, with his nose slightly in front of the vertical. He should march forward with purpose and his hindfeet should touch the ground in front of the prints left by his forefeet.

Find out more about what judge’s are looking for and how you can gain higher marks in September Horse&Rider, on sale 26 July.

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