There are just so many movements in a dressage test that riders can be very intimidated especially when riding their first test. However, there are a few little basics for you to remember that can increase your dressage score.


Judges like to see symmetry.  In Training Level tests where the transitions are between the letters try to put the upward and downward transition on both reins at approximately the same plae.  However, remember that the judges also want to see good basics over accuracy.  As an example, if you need to make a choice between riding a smooth transition a little before or after the letter or doing a stiff, crooked transistion exactly at the letter, then choose the smooth one even though it is not quite at the right place.

What part of the horse should halt at X?  The horse's shoulder to the rider's knee should be over the letter.  This is more important when you have a judge on the side.

Another unwritten rule is to only salute the judge at C.  The C judge is the president of the Ground Jury for the class and will return your salute.  If you go off course, go to the judge at C.

Learn the dimensions of the ring.  If you have no clue as to the dimensions, how can you ride an accurate 20-meter circle?  Don't be surprised about the deductions on accuracy if you ride an oval rather than a circle.

To ride a good diagonal line, use the corners.  The horse's nose and shoulder should touch the letter as you leave the corner, and the horse's nose and shoulder should touch the letter at the end of the diagonal line before you go into the corner.

With respect to the free walk, it is not how low the head and neck goes that counts, it is the ability of the horse to use his topline and move his neck and back.  Don't hod your horse's head down ans this will create stiffness and will cost you marks.

Lazy trot

Judges need to encourage rider to do movements correctly and not give high scores for turn on the haunches that look like walk pirouettes.  The track of the hind legs is allowed to cover approximately one meter.  Pay attention to wording.  If it says begin before C then that means before C, not past C and not at C.

Know where each movement begins and ends.  If a mistake occurs, try to contain it in one movement.  Don't loose your temper and make a huge correction which often carries the low score into the next movement as well.

expressive trot

A counter canter has as much bend as a 20-meter circle.  Riders tend to overbend the neck in the direction of the lead which puts the horse on the outside shoulder creating an unbalanced movement.

At the end of the test, always thank the judge at C.

Always read the purpose of the test which is listed at the top of each test.  The purpose discusses the basics that will be needed to accomplish the exercises in the test.  Remember that accuracy is always secondary to good basics.  Your training is finished the day you arrive at the show grounds where you are to demonstrate your training.  Judges do not appreciate seeing huge corrections being made by riders.  If you go back and do a movement again you will receive an error deduction on your score at the end and the judge will give you the score you deserved the first time you performed that movement.

horse thank you2

1 Response

  1. This is excellent advice. While it seems so basic, it’s really not a set of rules I have ever seen written out anywhere. Thank you. Dressage tests can seem so stressful to the beginner.

Leave a comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.