Perfecting Training Level Test 1: Movement 4

Movement 4:

Points 10:

B-E Half circle left 20m


Quality of canter; shape and size of half circle; bend

Movement 3 included the transition up to canter and we are now continuing with the canter into a half circle.  Remember that you will be marked on the quality of your canter plus the shape of your half circle.  So,  how would one describe “quality of canter?”  Also note that "QUALITY" no matter what gait is always a directive and you and your horse are being judged on that element.

Let’s be blunt, there is no shortcut to quality.  There are only 2 things that make a great dressage horse:  1 – quality breeding, and 2- quality training.  If you want to progress and be successful at a Grand Prix level, you will need both a quality horse and quality training.  But, if you are like most people and have an average budget and your horse is average, do not think you cannot make a good performer out of your horse!  Quality training applies to all horses, regardless of breed or age.  And believe it or not, quality training does not mean that you need to hire an expensive trainer to teach your horse the elements, it is actually something that you can do yourself simply by following the Training Scale.

The best riders/trainers in the world will tell you that good training is built block by block onto a strong foundation of six elements of: 1- Rhythm; 2- Suppleness; 3- Contact; 4- Impulsion; 5-Straightness and 6- Collection.  These elements are knows as The Training Scale, or The Training Pyramid.

So, what will the judge be looking for in the quality of canter?  Rhythm!  When your horse is relaxed,  he is able to step into his natural 3-beat canter rhythm.  Remember that there is good rhythm and there is bad rhythm.  A good rhythm is when your horse’s canter is a true 3-beat canter, bad or incorrect rhythm is when it becomes a lazy 4-beat one.

Next is Suppleness.  Let’s face it…a dressage horse is an athlete and every athlete requires a certain degree of flexibility.  Suppleness is described as a general looseness and flexibility of your horse’s body comprising of longitudinal and lateral suppleness.  Longitudinal is the looseness of the horse’s haunches, back, neck poll and jaw giving him the ability to swing forward while remaining fairly on the bit, while lateral suppleness is the degree to which your horse can bend his body and neck sideways, either to produce a circle or to move sideways.  Since you will be doing a half circle on this test, suppleness is a very important factor in obtaining a good score as the "Bend" is a directive element!

The judge, at this level, will also be looking at Contact to some degree which is when the horse is accepting the rider’s hands, seat and legs.  Too many people make the mistake thinking that contact is when the horse being on the bit.  That is not necessarily true.  A horse moving under a rider is in contact with his seat, legs and hands.  Good contact is when the horse accepts and responds to seat and leg aids while maintaining a round outline with a mouth that is relaxed and accepting of the bit and when the horse’s back is raised, his quarters engaged, his poll  is the highest point, his jaw relaxes and his nose is just a hint in front of the vertical.

Impulsion is the free flowing energy which is initiated by the rider which causes the horse’s back to swing and his quarters to be engaged.  Good impulsion is illustrated through the horse that has the desire to go forward with active, lively steps.  The measurement of how far the horse steps underneath his barrel and how much he engages his hocks are also measurements of impulsion.  Basic training controls the horse so that impulsion becomes second nature to him and you, the rider, do not have to push all the time.  Impulsion is starting and is measured by the Judge at this level.

I have always said that horse’s are naturally crooked, so keeping them straight is your job.  A horse is truly straight when the hind foot steps in the line of the front foot and that is what the Judge will be looking for throughout this test.
Good luck on this important movement!  Larissa

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