What the judge is looking for in your dressage test
Above Kim Ratcliffe
First of all the combination should be following the scales of training, firstly clear rhythm in all three paces: secondly suppleness, relaxation and looseness: thirdly evenly accepting the contact; fourthly positively in front of the leg with active hind legs and using the hind legs to balance in the transition. (straightness and collection are also important for elementary and beyond)
The movements should be accurately ridden with clear differences between corners and circles, the horse should be straight on the centreline and show clear bend around the leg (not too much neck bend) appropriate to the size of the circle and the horse should always be looking in the direction he is travelling except in counter canter when he should be looking over the leading leg.
The horse should show clear difference in the length of the steps and length of the frame in the different aspects of the pace eg comparing free to medium walk or working to medium canter, but there should be no difference in the speed of the steps. When asked to stretch the horse should relax more over the back and stretch out towards the ground but without poking the nose (which shortens the top line). When asked to give and retake the reins the rider should push the hands clearly towards the mouth to release the contact for 1-2 clear strides, the horse should remain in the same frame and balance and not stretch down.
Most riders, when they learn their dressage test, look at the directions or the patterns that they need to ride, very often using a plan with the movements drawn schematically rather than the British Dressage sheet with the words on. However, whilst it is important to be aware of where you need to go this is a lost opportunity to understand the main areas the judge will be considering in each movements For several years now the BD sheets have featured Directives for the benefit of both the rider and the . By having a detailed understanding of the Directives of every single movement in the test this can help the rider to understand what is required and what element needs more attention as the judge does not have time to write a comment on every single element that they will be considering to arrive at the mark.
If you are looking for more details about what the judge is looking for then look at the downloads at SoundSchooling.com or tips on www.think equestrian.co.uk
British Dressage registered trainer/coach, List 1 judge (to Grand Prix) and qualified NLP practitioner to help riders with confidence issues