The secrets behind your dressage scores

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Have you ever thought about what the judges are actually marking you on in your Prelim test?

When you are in prelim, the foundation skills needed for prelim are rhythm and tempo, making your horse work in front of you leg, and keeping them into contact.

The judges are looking for the application of the training scale – how well you implementing the training scale at home for your horses’ physical, mental and behavioural development. They want to see that the test flows: one movement should flow easily into the next without resistance, which shows good behavioural training and exposure.

They are also looking for accuracy in the test – the diameters of you movements, the correct shape on the course.

If you can ride an accurate test without any behavioural issues you should get at least 50-60% in your scoring. This shows you have put enough training in at home to be able to navigate the movement in the arena without your horse being silly.

Obviously, this can depend on your horse’s previous exposure and at what level you are competing at – for example, if you are riding at an official day they would expect a higher standard than at an associate day.

The next thing your judges are looking for is your rhythm and tempo. This should be consistent and fluid throughout the test- it shouldn’t be hurried but it should be active.

The next is connection and working frame, particularly the consistency of the frame throughout the test, and that you can ride your horse with bend. When we achieve this, we should be starting to see our marks getting up to 60-65%. It shows that we are implementing our training scale well, that our horse is understands how to work with self carriage, connection, and knows how to carry that through transitions and onto the movements.

We can start pushing those marks up when our horse starts working with thoroughness and swing, and that they are not working on the forehand but they are pulling through the shoulder.

Lastly is impulsion. Once we start working with impulsion, we can see our marks pushing the 70%, or maybe even the 80%, depending on the quality of the horse and the level of competition that you are at.

Keep in mind, your scores can also be influenced by the first horse that competes (as he sets the bar for the rest of the day), and what level you are competing in.

So when you complete your test, receive your results and are seeing comments give us insight into what areas we should be working with.

More forward – know more about how to keep you horse in front of your leg without rush; how to create more forwardness in your rhythm and tempo.

More bend – we need to learn how to ride our horse more around our leg.

More frame – your horses’ development in being able to work with rounded connection and into your hands, having the sensitivity to the bit and the suppleness through the back to be able to maintain the connection.

When you achieve these ‘mores’, you would be at the next level of competition – and once you get there, there will be more ‘more’ to achieve!

And that is why dressage is an ever improving sport.

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