A Basic Paces Dressage Survival Guide!

Have you ever wanted to have a go at dressage but been put off? DON'T BE!! - Any one at any level can have a go!

Dressage is very much a growing sport with many benefits to both horse and rider - no matter how much - or little! - they've done before.

Work on your 'flat work' and you'll find your horse will be more responsive, find it easier to do what you ask, as well as start to enjoy his/her time spent in the arena - all of which pay dividends, whether riding on the Downs or on the roads.

Fear of forgetting the test?
Handy Hints to remember the test.
Other riders on beautifully bred or schooled horses who look like they know what they are doing?
Uncertain how to "Work-in"?
Worried if you will lose marks if your horse isn't "on the bit"?

Scared of riding in front of other people?
Uncertain what you should wear?
Can you ride in normal tack or do you HAVE to have a dressage saddle?

Do I need to plait?
Where do you get the tests from?
What if my horse is naughty?
What if the judge looks scary?
How can I get extra marks?
How do I know when to start?
How do I salute?
What if I get it wrong?
So what happens once I have entered?

How much does it cost and where do I enter?

 

Fear of forgetting the test?
Panic not! You are allowed to have some one call it out for you - just make sure they can read! They must know the test, what the 'movements' are and where the 'markers' are in the arena. If they've not read a test before then get them to practice with you beforehand - they must be able to read each 'movement' out as you start the previous one in order to give you time to prepare you and your horse (if you can't find anyone -ask the organizer on the day -they may be able to help!). Back

Handy Hints to remember the test.
Firstly know the size and plan of the arena - most are 20x40m (see WT Tests for Arena Plans)
Remember where the arena letters are.
Figure out what movements you might have to do and when
Practice Practice Practice ! - Even if scribbling down on a piece of paper.

Although you should practice individual movements, remember NOT to practice on your horse too much - you don't want him to anticipate the movements in the test and spring into trot to early - or worse and have him halt at the wrong time!Unsure of the different school movements (or figures)?
The Walk & Trot tests will be supplied with diagrams to show you where in the arena the movements should be carried out - get a friend to watch or video you so you can see how accurate you are - or practice in an arena that has just been harrowed so you can see if your circles really are round or square!! Back

Other riders on beautifully bred or schooled horses who look like they know what they are doing?
Don't be fooled! They all started somewhere! Yes, they may have a horse or pony that 'looks the part' but with time and effort so could you and your beloved quadruped!!
As you progress with the level of competition you and your horse are comfortable with, you will be amazed to look back and see from where you first started! It may take time, lessons and lots of practice and advice but the benefits are many! Back

Uncertain how to "Work-in"
Every horse will be different - there is never a hard and fast rule. As you know, many, many things influence how a horse behaves. Rider nerves?, strange surroundings?, first time out?, indoors or outdoors? Missing 'buddies' still on the trailer? to name but a few of the reasons why each horse is different to work-in. Generally you need to consider your normal work at home and try to reflect that in your working-in - but remember, if you only school your horse at home for 20 mins each time and the class is running late (as can often happen) you don't want to find he thinks he has finished and should now be tucking into his hay net and on his way home!
You have to ride your horse when working it in - although you are allowed help from the ground. Make sure the tack you use is allowed in the test! Boots/Bandages are allowed during the work-in (but not during the test). Back

Worried if you will lose marks if your horse isn't "on the bit"?
What does this really mean? You would be surprised how many riders think that this is when the horse has a 'bend in his neck with the nose tucked in'! Luckily, most dressage judges are not so easily fooled!
The main thing is that your horse must be straight, going forwards in an even rhythm (e.g. a good regular 2 time trot) with balance (e.g. he can do the movements you ask him to) and be responsive to your aids showing as little resistance as possible. Back

Scared of riding in front of other people?
DON'T BE !! Many people watch dressage as they enjoy seeing horses work -many spectators may simply be there to support their friends and loved ones - or maybe their horse is competing with someone else on board! Back

Uncertain what you should wear?
Most unaffiliated dressage is run under British Dressage Rules. Generally the rider should wear:
•Beige, White or Cream Jodhpurs
•Gloves - any colour - (dark ones draw less attention to the riders hands!)
•Hat - recommended BSI standard - if Jockey Skull, then blue, black or brown silk
•Boots - Black or Brown. Jodhpur or long - but if wearing chaps must be same collar and plain design
•Jacket - Hacking Jackets are allowed - although you can wear blue or black, you won't need your top hat & tails until you get to Advanced !!
•Shirt and Tie or Stock
•Whip - are permitted but must be a 'schooling' whip no longer than 110cm in length
•Spurs -are allowed but must be fitted and used correctly and carefully - seek advice - avoid using them for the first time at the competition! Back

Can you ride in your 'normal' tack - do you HAVE to have a dressage saddle?
Depends largely upon your normal tack and levels of control! Generally speaking you have to use the same equipment to work-in as you will use when riding the test.
You do not have to use a dressage saddle - just avoid a racing one! -ideally either a dark or white plain Numnah if you use one
For W&T, Prelim and Novice tests you should use a snaffle bridle - you must have a noseband but avoid a grackle - has to be either
•plain cavesson
•drop
•flash
You are allowed a breastplate and at W&T and Prelim you can use a neckstrap too!
You are not allowed gadgets such as bitguards, martingales, balancing or reins etc Remember you can work in using boots/bandages but don't forget to take them off before you do the test
Your bit must be a plain snaffle - ask your instructor or consult www.britishdressage.co.uk if you are unsure. Back

Do I need to plait?
Not compulsory and difficult if your horse has a long native mane and tail - but advisable if you can as it looks very smart and remember the first impression often counts. Back

Where do you get the tests from?
Walk & Trot Tests are available to download on the website. For Prelim and Novice test information or the current British Dressage Rule Book contact www.britishdressage.org or try your local tack store. Back

What if my horse is naughty?
Don't worry- remember to ride him forwards. Golden rule is to allow plenty of time to get tacked up and ready to work-in - avoids rider panic transmitting to your horse. If you are worried then ask someone for help! If he misbehaves during the test then the judge will understand! Back

What if the judge looks scary?
Some do and some don't ! Remember that they have probably experienced the same initial concerns you have when they first competed! If they look very stern it is probably that they are concentrating! Back

How can I get extra marks?
Practice your test - look up, ride accurate movements and remember to prepare your horse for turns and transitions in plenty of time. Back

How do I know when to start?
Provided the class is running to time, you should get a chance to ride your horse around the edge of the Arena prior to entering at A. Generally speaking you should not ride inside the arena until the test starts, but some arenas are small so you may have to - check with the organizer. The judge will either sound their horn, whistle or ring a bell - if you are uncertain ask them - they know how easy it is to forget to listen - as well as to forget to breathe! Back

How do I salute?
Once you have halted, place reins and stick in one hand and then lower your chin as you let your free arm straighten and lower so your hand is behind your leg. Hold for 2-3 sec. and then look up - remember to smile! - and continue! Back

What if I get it wrong?
If you lose your way when doing the test the judge will sound the horn, bell or whistle. Should this happen then if you realize where you have gone wrong, simply go back to where you should be. If you go blank then the judge will help you by telling you where you need to be. Don't forget though that you can have your test read out for you - you do not get any marks deducted for having this done, but you will lose marks if you forget where you are going! Back

So what happens once I have entered?
Provided you have sent in an SAE with your entry you will receive your times back by post. On-line entrys will recieve times by E-mail. Back

How much doe it cost and where do I enter?

Entry Fee is 13 per class or 24 for 2 classes (same horse and rider combination on same day of competition). You can enter online using the online entry page on this website. Postal entries should be sent to: Woodyard Training, Woodyard, The Green, Wilmington, East Sussex, BN26 5SP

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