There are lots of dressage training clinics and indoor events going on at the moment. We advocate putting in the practise now so that, come the spring, you will be ready to contest a dressage competition confidently. If you’re ready to move up to novice, Jenny Richardson BHSAI has this advice:
Novice dressage competitions can be a challenge, as there are often amateur riders who are relatively in-experienced in a competitive environment competing against more experienced riders and their young horses.Therefore, it is important not to lose valuable marks through carelessness, or a lack of schooling and training.
One of the most common problems seen at Novice level is a lack of balance, for example the horse breaking rhythm on a circle.
Other common problems are a lack of accuracy on turns, corners and straight lines, and stiffness in the rider’s body, often through nerves.
In novice dressage competitions there are often amateur riders competing against the more experienced.
Practice your centre lines
When schooling, try riding down the centre line in both sitting and then rising trot, to assess which works best for you in terms of your accuracy on the turns – you don’t need to ride in sitting trot until Elementary level. Practice riding straight lines away from the arena wall, both halting along your line, and also riding without a pause.
As you are expecting the horse to be straight in this movement, you must sit straight in the saddle, with even weight distribution. Remember, your outline isn’t of such importance as your straightness in this movement, due to the judge’s viewpoint, so focus on keeping an accurate line.Your halt transitions can be progressive up to and including Elementary level.
Unless your direct trot to halt transitions are very good, ride progressively through walk for a more accurate transition and a squarer halt – you won’t lose any marks.
Your pre-centre line turns are important. You have two at the start of the movement – one in the corner approaching A, and one at A itself, down the centre line.
Set up your turn correctly in the first corner by riding a deep circle shape, and you will get a better turn down the centre line, potentially giving a positive first impression on the day of the test.
Riding a good 20m circle
Many people make the mistake of riding the corner before their circle (for example, the F-A corner, when you are instructed to ride a 20m circle at A) as a circle. This is wrong – prior to your circle, you are going still going large, and should be riding into your corners.
Once on your circle, think of it as a diamond shape with rounded corners. By slightly turning your body to the inside and following the bend of the horse and the shape of the circle, you will round the diamond’s corners; ask someone to stand in the middle to check whether they can see your outside shoulder – they should be able to you if you are turned sufficiently! Don’t be afraid to over-do or exaggerate this body position, as you are likely to get an extra mark for it on the day of your test, as it will show the judge you know what you are doing.
You can hone many of your downward transitions when schooling by sitting back a little before the transition – it means that with practise, you don’t even have to use the reins, as the horse responds to the change in your body position.
Getting the free walk right
You should still have control of the horse’s neck in free walk on a long rein. Don’t throw the reins away, as you may get ‘loops’ – this becomes free walk on a loose rein!
On the day
A bold trot down the centre line looks better from the judge’s point of view, and a slower pace offers more opportunities for crookedness; so practice riding your line with plenty of impulsion – on the day of the test, sit tall and centrally, and portray confidence.
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