Category Archives: Test Riding

10 MUST DO Dressage Test Tips that will take your scores to GOOD or better

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10 MUST DO Dressage Test Tips that will take your scores to GOOD or better

Dressage Test Tips

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Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Very few trainers give real weight to their pupils understanding and focusing on the collective marks.  My view is that if you pay lip service to this as an ‘also ran’ you will not have a full understanding of the aims of your test.

The collective marks allow the judge to give an overall score for their perception of how you and your horse performed THROUGHOUT THE TEST.  It is their opinion as to how you as a combination conducted yourselves and the overall impression you left them with as the test progressed.

This post is the first in a series that will explore how you can make the most of your collective marks.  For those of you that know the scoring and how it works I apologise but I must start with scoring so that everyone understands what they are aiming for.

Each Judge will allot 1-10 points for each section of the collective marks. These points are directly related to the key below:

Scale of Marks

  • 10 Excellent
  • 09 Very Good
  • 08 Good
  • 07 Fairly Good
  • 06 Satisfactory
  • 05 Sufficient
  • 04 Insufficient
  • 03 Fairly Bad
  • 02 Bad
  • 01 Very Bad
  • 0 Not Executed

At the lower levels collective marks are assigned for the following:

  • Paces and Regularity
  • Submission
  • Impulsion
  • Riders Position and Seat
  • Balance

In the event of a tie, the horse with the higher collective marks takes the higher placing.  If the total of the collective marks is also equal the horses are given the same placing and grading points in accordance with that percentage.

So, with this in mind it is really important that you know that throughout your test you are being marked not only for execution of the movement but also, the horses paces, submission, impulsion and your own riders position and seat.

It is not something that will just happen.  You need to work on these areas and really maximise your collective points.

The next post in the series will look at Paces and Regularity, but within that there are, of course, 3 paces – walk, trot and canter.  In the meantime, here’s an alternative way of scoring which may make more sense …

Dressage Scoring

The collective marks in a test can mean the difference between winning and not winning.   But for me that is not the aim of the game, for me the collective marks are about feedback on the very basics of your training and what you should concentrate on MOST OF ALL when you get your test sheet.

Have fun!

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


So, today we worked on teaching my young horse Trot Extensions and the essence of the matter is preparation.

The corner before the extension, assuming you are making the extensions across the diagonal is absolutely vital.  It should be forward, balanced and primed.

  • Half halt, make sure you have a good bend and use the corner well
  • After the corner, half halt again to let your horse know something different is about to happen (a transition into extended trot)
  • Sit up and apply your leg aids – BOTH – gently and off again, whilst giving A LITTLE with the rein, from the elbow.
  • Remember you are not aiming to go faster, just longer strides so don’t give away the contact.  The Horse should have a consistent contact so that he/she doesn’t run and simply lengthens the stride.
  • In the early days, talk to your horse – Tell them to trot on as if you were lunging, this will help to stop them going into canter

Allow it to happen.

Expect it to happen.

Feel it happening.


And when it does, lots of praise to reaffirm the horse is doing good.

Trot Extensions

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


Training Focus

… Are you aware of everything that is going on around you? Are you easily distracted when riding?

Being focused and keeping training focus is not so easy … a simple, way to keep your focus is to imagine you are being watched (you probably are if you have dogs!)

Training FocusAfter all, in your training sessions or in a test it’s all about how you are perceived, how your training progression is going and to assess you, they need to watch you perform.

Imagine then, that there is a judge at A and a judge at E, every single time you ride.  It’s a sure fire way to ensure you are maintaining your training focus on what you are trying to achieve and not getting distracted.

How many of you, when competing, forget to ride?  What I mean is how many of you actually ride the test like you would when you are training in the arena at home?  Pop in a slight shoulder fore if needed, steady the pace, give  a sharper aid.  My partner once popped a 10m circle into a test where it wasn’t required!  He needed to get the horses attention and encourage more bend.  He got 2 penalty points for error of course but a 9 for his riding, because the judge knew exactly what he had done and why.

Ask your trainer to occasionally give you marks for your movements.  I often get a random “FIVE” shouted out in a training session which is Mark’s way of saying “not good enough!”  I have to figure out why it was a five to improve.  Likewise, he’ll sometimes say “that was an eight”  (although not very often!) which is his equivalent of “good”

Thinking about being judged in your training is a good way of ensuring that when you get in front of a judge you actually ride as if you were training and not ‘going through the motions’.

A word of caution though, this does not mean give a demo every time you ride! Simply ensure your riding would consistently get a minimum mark of 8, strive for 9, maybe even a 10!

As always, have fun.

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster

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Quick Tip to aid your accuracy in the arena.

To aid your accuracy before your schooling session, use a rake in the arena to draw a straight line from A to C and then again from B to E.

This will help you to work out if your circles and shapes are accurate. It will also show you if your straight lines are straight.

Don’t forget you will be penalised heavily by the judges if you are not accurate. It is the most basic of requirements and never the fault of the horse!1 accuracy

Patricia – The Dressage Tipster