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“TEST” is a Four Letter Word

17 August 2011 No Comment

“TEST” is a Four Letter Word
By: Lynn McEnespy

Competitive dressage has become increasingly popular with shows frequently having large classes at the lower levels. The difference between a winning ride and last place can be a matter of a few points. Most everyone has had the Îride from hell° when our equine partners decide they would rather demonstrate their ability to leap and cavort instead of the requisite submission and relaxation in a dressage test. These rides (and generally the resulting scores) go into the Îsurvived° category. However, completed tests from the other rides provide very valuable insight into how to improve the next time and are worth careful study. You pay a lot to enter a show, get your moneyês worth and read what has been written on your test.

When you review your previous tests, see which movements carry the double co-efficient and check your score. A small improvement in any of these movements, which includes the walk score, will quickly add up. In Second Level Test 4 there are no less than 7 co-efficient movements. A score of 6 on each of these is a total of 84, a score of 7 is 98. This is 3.3% of the test  a nice improvement for any ride!

The Directive Ideas column of the test is frequently overlooked. This is some of the best information you can find on how to improve your test. Each movement has a box that defines the essence of the movement and reveals all the Îsecret° things judges look at. Some judges will actually underline or circle particular items that are good, or not so good. Of particular note is the Îstretchy circle° movement at training and first levels. The directive is quite clear how this is to be ridden but a lot of times riders loose points because they donêt really know how to show this important movement.

Improving test scores can be done without spending huge amounts of money on a new horse. This requires some study and thought, but will generally pay off quickly. Before you ride in your next show, try the homework exercise below.

Get a complete copy of your test.

Take a blank sheet of paper and draw each movement as it is written in the test. For each movement there is a start and end point. Movement 1 ends when movement 2 starts, etc. If there are corners, turns, and/or transitions within a movement that appear to be just part of the road map, beware, the judge is watching. The entire movement is being judged, not just the obviously important part. Things like poor turns or corners with the horse very unbalanced or even counter-flexed can cost you points each time it happens in the test.

Knowing where the next movement starts can be very valuable in the event you make a mistake. A common error particularly with people new to dressage competition is failing to correct a wrong lead immediately. Not only does this result in a low score for the transition to the canter, it carries on to subsequent movements if it is not corrected. If a mistake is made, it is best to try isolate it to a single movement and not affect two or three.

This exercise should make it very clear that the Îempty space° in the test, can give you several more points if ridden well. In general, judges do not penalize geometry that is a little off at the lower levels, however accurate riding is generally impressive and rewarded.

After you have done your test on paper, ride your test and observe places where you generally might slide a bit. Having an observer helps here. When you have identified the rough edges, you can practice or resolve schooling issues with your horse that will smooth out the test ride. For example, you will be able to glide through corners with bend and elegance, give a good first impression with an energetic, straight entry and halt, etc. and pick up those additional points that will give you the blue ribbon.

About the Author:

Lynn McEnespy is an AHSA Îr° Dressage Judge since 1996, currently approved as an ÎR° candidate. Graduated with honors from USDF ÎL° Judges program, attended AHSA judges forums at Flintridge, Toyon Farms (Napa), and Moorpark, also judges programs with Elizabeth Searle and J. Ashton Moore at Osierlea in San Juan Bautista, Calif. USDF Bronze and Silver medals. Currently competing at FEI, 1st and 2nd levels (not on the same horse), and judging AHSA and other dressage shows.

E-Mail: AskLynn@todayshorse.com

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