Perfecting Training Level Test 1: Movement 2

Movement 2 has a 10 Point Value

C Track left

E Circle left 20m

Directives:  Bend and balance in turn, quality of trot; shape and size of circle, bend.

Dressage is a numbers game where judges only use whole numbers from 1 to 10.  The only exception is in freestyles.  The more correct and thorough your training is, the higher your scores can be.   The greatest success comes from riding the test accurately and precisely and showing your horse to the best of his ability.

All judges arrive at a score by using a basic formula of B + C +/-M = S (Basics +  Criteria +/-Modifier = Score).  This means the judge looks at the Basics (Rhythm, Suppleness, Contact, Impulsion, Straightness and Collection) plus the Criteria (requirements of that particular movement) plus or minus the score Modifiers (including size, accuracy, geometry and corners.)  Modifiers can move your score up or down so they are very important when riding any test.

The second movement in the USDF Training Level Test 1 is a 20 meter circle.  This is simple geometry!  Your circle needs to be ROUND and EVEN, thus your horse needs to be straight on a curved line.  This means that the hind legs are following along in the footsteps of the front legs.  On a circle, when this happens, the horse bends around the inside track to accommodate for the curved line.  If you think about riding your horse so that their hind legs follow in line with the front, it becomes much easier to ride a round and even circle.  Think about guiding the front legs around the circle with your reins, and supporting the inside bend with your inside leg, while keeping the outside hind leg from drifting out of the circle with your outside leg.

It is very important to know the correct distances in the arena.  All of them are measured in meters, and all competition areans are 20m x 60m.  Therefore when riding a 20 meter circle at E, you should cross the centerline 2 meters inside of I and L.  Drawing a diagram or walking this in an arena will greatly help you with the geometry and riding the circle. Remember that not all riding arenas are 20m x 60m.  If you are working on your spacial awareness for riding a test, it would help to first see how big a 20 metre circle is in your own arena, and marking the dimensions with cones before practicing the movement.

The Old Masters always said “Ride your horse forward and make him straight.”  Since all horses are stiffer to one side, your goal in this test is to make your horse as evenly supple to the right and to the left as possible, then circles in both directions, as well as turns and lateral work will be similar if not exactly the same.  A good way to practice making the stiffer side more supple is to start and end your riding on this weaker side.  That way, there is more practice going into the flexibility on this stiffer side.

What exactly is “Quality of Trot” as listed in the directive ideas? We always hear that sentence and many of us really don’t know what that means.  So, exactly what is it?  Some horses look just so pretty when trotting and so effortless when they trot, while other horses look like they are struggling… The horse with the “pretty” trot is expressing "quality" in several ways.  These expressions are suppleness (increased flexions and extension of the joints), forwardness (energy and power), and self carriage (balance and lightness).

Remember, conformation problems do occur in all horses and can include being croup high, downhill with shorter forelegs, or a thick throat latch, which makes it hard to go on the bit.  Sometimes the temperament of your horse can challenge you to create energy and activity or causes tension and inattention, which all affect your overall mark.

If you have a horse with conformation issues as above who tends to get lower marks for his gaits which then prevents higher scores in the test, accept him as he is and understand his limitations.  Don’t punish him for what nature has given him, but help him achieve the best marks he can possibly get by riding your test as accurately as possible and showing off your horses good points to get those higher marks.

Additionally, with more training comes an increased quality of trot, so if your horse is not perfect at Training Level, don't worry! You will build up as a pair the further you train.  Don't despair, work together as a team and together you can accomplish a great deal!

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