Improve your dressage score   [PRINT]

If thereís something guaranteed to see your dressage score take a slide itís careless mistakes that annoy the judges and throw away marks.  Lack of preparation, poor turnout, sloppy riding and failing to ride your corners correctly will all knock you down the order faster than you can imagine.  Certain dressage tests often throw up a mistake thatís repeated or poorly ridden time and time again.

The good news is that such faults are easily avoided provided you train correctly, plan ahead and take the trouble to find out what the judges are looking for.

First & foremost do your homework - study & learn the Rules & Guidelines.

Horse & Rider should appear relaxed and in harmony with no tension and the horse performing as if on its own accord.  Above all, understand each movement in a test and ride each as correctly as possible with suppleness and flexibility, and remember to ride between the movements as well as riding the actual movements.  The rider should display correct head/shoulder/hip/heel alignment, and legs should not be forward as normal Western even in halt.

Many are ill-informed about whatís expected with regard to their horseís outline, and it's incorrect to see horses with their chin on their chest and their back end trailing behind.
  Avoid riding your horse over-bent - it should have a natural head carriage with face either vertical or slightly in front (but not behind), and its nose level with the point of shoulder ie. the classic Western outline.

Riders throw marks away through lack of preparation.  A common example is when asked to ride down the centre line but instead they under/overshoot it or serpentine, or attempt to ride a 10/15/20-metre circle and the size or shape isnít accurate.
  An incorrect salute counts as an error Ė the salute may be either "English" or Western style as preferred, but for "English" you put the reins into one hand, drop the other arm by your side and incline your head.

One of the things judges always look out for is how riders prepare for transitions or turns.  Itís not uncommon to see a surprised expression on a horseís face when the rider suddenly either makes a sharp turn or gives a Ďjog-now/lope-nowí aid, rather than prepare and give the horse an indication that something-might-be-happening (half-halt) and then the aid.  Sometimes you see a horse looking rather shocked as it is surprised into the transition.

Competitors often donít ride corners correctly or deep enough and frequently do a quarter circle instead; they donít have time to set up the horse for the next movement and so maybe overshoot the centre line or make some other mistake.  Always ride deep into the corner, maintaining your horseís rhythm and balance, which gives you more time to prepare for the next movement whatever it may be.

Diagrams showing correct performance of various figures and exercises including:
Circle   Serpentine   Figure-eight   Shoulder-in   Haunches-in (Travers)   Haunches-out (Renvers)   Half-pass   Leg-yield (rail & diagonal)   Turn on Haunches   Turn on Forehand

Another gripe is carelessness.  Accuracy is important in a horseís training, and if you donít ride each movement accurately then your horse isnít going to develop the correct degree of suppleness and flexibility.  An otherwise acceptable test is often marred by little mistakes that could be corrected with good training, leaving the rider in the placings as opposed to way down the leader board.

Study the Judgeís comments and work on the shortcomings so you donít throw away marks pointlessly.   Iron out any niggles and concentrate on the basics.  Work on improving minor inaccuracies
in maintaining correct paces and precision performing transitions and movements. 
Make a mental note never to repeat the mistakes that judges see time and again and make them grumble.


Of course thereís no getting away from the fact that horses have minds of their own !  Donít beat yourself up if in spite of all your preparations yours decides to gawk at the judge's car.  If you look great, ride correctly and enjoy yourself the judge will be watching (and hopefully smiling) as they write up your test sheet.



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