Category Archives: The Novice Test

Novice Test – Counter Canter

You are the proud rider of a horse that you have trained to strike off on the correct canter lead; you can maintain the canter and balance and now it’s time to begin thinking about counter canter.

Counter canter is found in Novice dressage tests upwards and it’s a tricky one  because if your horse is anything like mine she just did not want to stay in counter canter, preferring to change legs (not yet my sweet another couple of levels until we get to that) or drop into trot (we worked hard to eliminate that some time ago!)

Counter canter is when your horse is cantering on the opposite lead to the direction it is going in.  So the horse will be on the left leg whilst cantering on the right rein. Continue reading Novice Test – Counter Canter

Novice Test – The 20 Metre Circle

The Crystal System is all about finding clarity in your approach and keeping things simple.  By simple I don’t necessarily mean ‘less’ but actually finding the heart of the matter.   Reducing what you need to do to its very essence ensuring nothing more could be taken away without it becoming ineffective, likewise, anything that you add is unnecessary and would only really create clutter and confusion.

All that we aspire to do will go through an evolution; a cycle of development until the process finds its ‘essential state’.  Learning something new usually creates some seemingly chaotic input, making it hard to separate the relevant and essential elements from the irrelevant.  As you learn more you start to set the pieces of the puzzle together for yourself, eventually arriving at the mastery stage.

Let’s take a look at some of the most straightforward subjects in dressage training and try to find the heart of them – beginning with riding a 20 metre circle.

Ask … “What is at the heart of The 20 Metre Circle?”

The 20 meter circle is one of the most important training figures in Dressage, from the introductory tests through to Grand Prix, in fact it could be said that the 20 metre circle is at the heart of all Dressage. It is one of the first figures taught to beginner riders and young or green horses. Due to its size, it doesn’t require that the horse or rider have incredible skills to be able to ride moderately well, but one thing is for sure, if you don’t pay attention to perfecting your circle work, with the goal of unconscious competence (mastery), you will not become sufficiently skilled to move up the levels.

The 20 metre circle is a test of your ability to accurately ride a basic pattern20 metre circle

Now I really don’t want to be stating the obvious, but I feel I must – the 20 metre circle should be round!  NOT egg or pear-shaped.  Each side of the arena (where the circle touches the outside of the arena) should only be met at a single point (as shown in diagram).  This means that you do not ride along the outside of the arena for any period of time.  There are absolutely NO straight elements to a circle and your horse should bend throughout.  Touch the sides and immediately off.

Continue reading Novice Test – The 20 Metre Circle

The Novice Test. Halt, Immobility, Salute

Continuing ‘The Novice Test’ series of posts, the entry and halt at X is your chance to make a good impression.  A good halt is an indicator that you have the basics right, so don’t squander the opportunity to make the judge sit up and take notice of you.

At the lower levels it is acceptable to ride a progressive transition from trot to halt.  The judge would prefer a few steps of walk than your horse screeching to a stop.

The Novice Test has a number of different places where the halt may be asked for:

Click on image to purchase Dana’s DoodleHalt

  • X – Halt Immobility Salute
  • G – Halt immobility Salute
  • D – Halt Immobility Salute

Followed by either –

  • Leave the arena or
  • Proceed in working trot

Then there’s the halt in the middle of the test:

  • A Halt. Immobility for 4 seconds and proceed in medium walk

Continue reading The Novice Test. Halt, Immobility, Salute

The Novice Test – Rider Fitness

My little horse, A.K. is a little sore at the base of the neck, so she’ll be having the physiotherapist and maybe acupuncture and whilst I wait for  these guys to do their stuff there’s no exercise for her.

I have noticed over the last few weeks that the winter with its unforgiving and energy sapping coldness has taken it’s toll on my fitness, my breeches feel a little tighter and I feel more tired after riding than I did back in September!

So, I’m taking the opportunity A.K. has presented me in not being able to ride to attempt to my bring  my fitness to match hers.  I got to thinking, if she can work through all the movements in a test the least I can do is try  So, my new rider fitness regime is about resistance, interval and circuit training – but with a difference!  I’ m using the arena to literally run through my tests.

There’s an added bonus … I’m learning my tests!

Rider FitnessSo, resistance comes from running in the arena against the silica sand and plastic granules surface, interval comes from going from jogging the working trot, running the canter, sprinting the medium canter, skipping the medium trot, walking the walk and shaking out in the free walk.  The movements come so quickly, one after the other as they do for your horse and whilst I am improving my fitness in this way I’m thinking about where the half-halts are, which bend I should be taking and the accuracy of the movements.

Continue reading The Novice Test – Rider Fitness

Novice Test – Rein back

[dropcap]I had[/dropcap] a surprising email from the U.S. recently asking me why we English riders DO NOT use ‘backing up’ in our training.  She had been advised by an English instructor … “we NEVER back a horse up!”   The instructor couldn’t really say why she never backs a horse up, just that it’s not done.  The question was “I can work with answers that have content and rationale.  I can’t work with answers that are ‘just because….’ do you have any thoughts as to why, in English schooling, horses are never backed up?

My dear Dressage enthusiasts, we all know this not to be true.

So, somewhat bemused, I responded advising my new American friend that we do indeed ‘back up’ our horses.  It’s called rein back and is in every test from Novice to Grand Prix.

An example of what you will find in a test is …

 C Rein back (for one horse’s length)
CH Medium Walk

So, let’s have a look at the whys and wherefores.

Why Do We Teach Rein Back?

Continue reading Novice Test – Rein back

Novice Test – The Centre Line

Do you incorporate riding THE CENTRE LINE into your everyday schooling sessions?

Perhaps when you are preparing for a competition or running through your test, but is it a movement that you do regularly as part of your regular warm up or schooling regime?  Because, if it isn’t, it should be!Centre Line

Your centre line will be judged on a number of factors: how confident you are on entry; straightness and suppleness; rhythm; contact; impulsion and accuracy.

A Confident Entry

In a novice dressage test the movements for entry on the centre line are …

  • A – Enter in working trot and proceed down the centre line without halting – Turn left or right
  • A – Enter at working trot and proceed down centre line. X – Halt. Immobility. Salute. Proceed in working trot. Turn left or right

You have to get into the arena but before that you to ride around the arena.  What you do in this time really depends on your horse.

Continue reading Novice Test – The Centre Line

Novice Test : Half 10m Circle

The Crystal System is all about finding clarity in your approach and keeping things simple.  In my new series of blogs which I have called “The Novice Test” I began with The 20m Circle and getting to the heart of what we need to do to achieve a 9.    It is worth reading this blog post as a starting point to perfecting (!) your half 10m Circles

half 10m CircleToday we explore the Half 10m Circle

The Novice Test asks for a number of movements which include the half 10m circle …

  • E – Half Circle Left 10 Metres Diameter to X
  • X – Half Circle Right 10 Metres Diameter to B

The half 10m circle from E to X and X to B crops up in a few of the novice dressage tests.  It’s a great way for a judge to assess if you have the horse flexing and bending correctly; if you can maintain the rhythm throughout the turns; if your horse is obedient to the aids; if you, as a rider, can maintain lightness in your aids.

Here are some tips to help …

Continue reading Novice Test : Half 10m Circle

NOVICE TEST – 5 Questions for the Novice Dressage Rider

2015A New Year often brings new ambitions, reinvigoration of our aspirations and thoughts about how we will make the most of the very precious time we spend with our horses.

Some of you will be thinking about competing, possibly for the first time or with a new horse or maybe like me, you are thinking that 2015 will bring you opportunities you have been working towards.

With this in mind I have been looking to the requirements of the Novice Dressage Test and the essence of what the judge is looking for.  I have compiled a check list of 5 questions you might want to consider and which will hopefully help you to focus on what is important.

The Novice DressageTest

It is all about the horse’s way of going and obedience.  The judge is looking to see if you are on the right track with your training and by asking yourself these 5 questions, but more importantly, by being honest with your answers, you will be able to assess for yourself, before you even enter the competition arena if your work at home is up to standard.

Novice DressageSo, ask yourself … Continue reading NOVICE TEST – 5 Questions for the Novice Dressage Rider

Novice Test – The 20 Metre Circle

HeartThe Crystal System is all about finding clarity in your approach and keeping things simple.  By simple I don’t necessarily mean ‘less’ but actually finding the heart of the matter.   Reducing what you need to do to its very essence ensuring nothing more could be taken away without it becoming ineffective, likewise, anything that you add is unnecessary and would only really create clutter and confusion.

All that we aspire to do will go through an evolution; a cycle of development until the process finds its ‘essential state’.  Learning something new usually creates some seemingly chaotic input, making it hard to separate the relevant and essential elements from the irrelevant.  As you learn more you start to set the pieces of the puzzle together for yourself, eventually arriving at the mastery stage.

HeartI thought you might like me to look at some of the most straightforward subjects in Dressage training and try to find the heart of them – beginning with riding a 20 metre circle.

Let us ask … “What is at the heart of this?”

Continue reading Novice Test – The 20 Metre Circle

NOVICE TEST – Teardrop Turn or Demi-volte to Long Side

Teardrop Turn – demi-volte to long side

The history of dressage is vast and fascinating, full of intriguing words and quotes from the ‘masters’ that you may or may not be able to make sense of.  The Volte was traditionally ridden over 12 strides in circumference (using the inside hind leg as the counter).  However, this was later decreased to 6-8 strides in circumference (6 meters) and is therefore, only used when a horse has developed the ability to collect. Of all the circles, the volte requires the most balance, engagement and power.teardrop turn

However, changing direction through a 10m half-volte is something you need to master for the preliminary test and is a quite significant movement, which should not be overlooked or thought of in any way as simple; there’s more to the tear-drop turn than meets the eye.

Continue reading NOVICE TEST – Teardrop Turn or Demi-volte to Long Side