Tag Archives: Dressage collective marks

The Collective Marks – Riders Position

In The Collective Marks series of blogs I have covered a great deal to help you understand the importance of concentrating on how the collective marks work and what you need to do to improve them.

collective#In your collective marks, at the end of your test sheet, the judge will 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.

Here’s the blog series to help you …

Collective Marks

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DEVELOPING LENGTHENED STRIDES

1To develop suppleness, engagement, balance and obedience; to help your horse achieve self-carriage try riding him ‘on and back’ by asking him for a few lengthened strides before asking him to come back to his working pace and repeating it several times in a session (transitions).

To set up the lengthened strides …

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COLLECTIVE MARKS – PACES AND REGULARITY – CANTER

This is the fourth blog in my series on Collective Marks.  As I have stated in all three of the previous posts, the importance of how you understand and focus on the collective marks cannot be emphasised enough.  If you pay lip service to this you will not have a full appreciation 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.

The first post in this series – Collective marks – Scoring, explained the way the collectives are scored by the judges.  Moving on, I turn to paces, regularity and freedom, the first of the collectives to be given marks.  Your score will be either an individual score for each of the 3 paces (walk, trot and canter) or an overall score for all of them, depending on your training level.

The Canter

The canter is a three beat pace, where in the canter to the right, for example, the footfall is as follows:  left hind, left diagonal (simultaneously left for and right hind, right fore, followed by a moment of suspension with all four feet I the air before the next stride begins.  The canter, always with light, cadenced and regular strides, should be moved into without hesitation.

The quality of the canter is judged by the overall impression that you give the judge.  So the judge might comment something like ‘pleasing canter’ which means that the overall impression that you give is good.5

 

They are looking for: Continue reading COLLECTIVE MARKS – PACES AND REGULARITY – CANTER

V – IS FOR VARIATION

VariationWhat is variation ?

It is “a change or slight difference in condition, amount, or level, typically within certain limits.”

Everyone knows that there are 3 recognised gaits in dressage – walk, trot and canter.  But we also have variations within these gaits – medium, free, collected and extended walk; working, medium, collected and extended trot and canter.

It is the phrase ‘within certain limits‘ that you must hold in your mind when training variations within the gaits.  You need a holistic approach to teaching your horse variations because, whilst the lengthening and shortening of your horses steps is important, this element (the length of the steps) is only important in relation to the overall outline or frame; elevation of the steps; raising of the forehand and neck and lowering of the croup.

All these elements are thoroughly interconnected and should be considered as the ‘certain limits‘ you must set yourself.  So, you would not set out to simply lengthen the stride when beginning in with the working to medium trot, you would set out to lengthen the frame, encourage more power from behind, raise the forehand and so on.  This is an important point for you to get into your head, because too many people send the front legs flicking out without engagement of the hind quarters and the way you approach the training will set you up for success.

Developing your horses ability to vary the gaits relies on your ability to do your transitions well and this in turn relies on your ability to recognise the absolute purity of the footfall within each gait, consistent tempo and regularity of the rhythm at all times – especailly throughout the transition.

Trot on

Products showing the ‘Trot On’ image can be purchased at …Zazzle/Kelli Swan

Here’s what to do …

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COLLECTIVE MARKS – PACES AND REGULARITY – TROT

The importance of how you understand and focus on the collective marks cannot be emphasised enough.  If you pay lip service to this you will not have a full appreciation of the aims of your test as more and more emphasis is being put on the horse’s ‘way of going’.  It is no longer sufficient to simply do the movements; you must demonstrate relaxation and willingness from the horse.

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.

The first post in this series – Collective marks – Scoring, explained the way the collectives are scored by the judges.  Moving on, we turned to paces, regularity and freedom, the first of the collectives to be given marks and my post the collective marks – paces and regularity – the walk takes you through the rule requirements and what is being looked for in the walk element of your test.

Your score will be either an individual score for each of the 3 paces (walk, trot and canter) or an overall score for all of them, depending on your training level.

So, onto Trot – the two beat pace of alternative diagonal legs separated by a moment of suspension.

1

The trot should show free, active and regular steps

It is the quality of the trot that is being judged.  By assessing the regularity; elasticity of the steps; cadence and impulsion the quality of the gait originates from the horse’s supple back and well-engaged hindquarters.  Rhythm and balance will be assessed with all variations of the trot.

At all times the horse is required to be ‘on the bit’.  For the observer, a horse is on the bit when you can draw an almost vertical line from his nose to his forelock when viewed from the side. Yet, there is so much more associated with the horse on the bit that many riders are not aware of.

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COLLECTIVE MARKS – PACES AND REGULARITY – WALK

Dressage is about training and developing your horse’s natural athleticism.  Creating a willing and gymnastic way of going is just as important as achieving the technical requirements.

The importance of how you understand and focus on the collective marks cannot be emphasised enough.  If you pay lip service to this you will not have a full appreciation of the aims of your test.

Since the Rollkur debates began raging, more and more emphasis is being put on the horse’s ‘way of going’.  It is no longer sufficient to simply do the movements, you must demonstrate relaxation and willingness from the horse.

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.

The first post in this series – Collective marks – Scoring, explained the way the collectives are scored by the judges.  Moving on, we now turn to paces, regularity and freedom, the first of the collectives to be given marks.

Your score will be either an individual score for each of the 3 paces (walk, trot and canter) or an overall score for all of them, depending on your training level.

 2

The Walk

The walk should at all times be consistent, like a march – a regular, four-time beat with equal intervals between each beat, relaxed.  There are currently 4 walks within the full range of Dressage Tests.

  • Medium Walk
  • Collected Walk
  • Extended walk
  • Free walk

Medium Walk

The rules state: A clear regular and unconstrained walk of moderate lengthening. 

For maximum points you should demonstrate an energetic, purposeful walk which is relaxed.  The horse should ‘overtrack’ (the hind feet touching the ground in front of the hoof prints of the forefeet) with even and determined steps.  The rider should allow the natural movement of the horses head and neck.

Collected Walk

The rules state: The horse moves resolutely forward with its neck raised and arched and showing a clear self carriage. 

The collected walk must remain marching and vigorous and in regular sequence.  The steps cover less ground and are higher than at the medium walk, because all the joints bend more markedly.  The collected walk is shorter than the medium walk although showing greater activity.

Extended Walk

The rules state: The horse covers as much ground as possible, without haste and without losing the regularity of the steps.

Overtrack becomes even more of a focus on the extended walk.  It is all too easy to have the horse strung out with appearance that the steps are longer, without overtrack the horse is not truly engaged and active.

However, the rider should allow the horse to stretch out the head and neck (forward and downwards) without losing contact and control of the poll.  The nose must be clearly in front of the vertical.

Free Walk

The rules state: The free walk is a pace of relaxation in which the horse is allowed complete freedom to lower and stretch out his head and neck. 

The degree of ground cover and length of strides with overtrack are essential to the quality of the free walk.  You are looking to show that the horse is balanced, supple, obedient and relaxed.  You should allow the reins to lengthen as the horse stretches gradually forward and downward.

As the neck stretches forwards and downwards the mouth should reach more or less to the horizontal line corresponding with the point of the shoulder.  How many of you have had the judges comment “should show more stretch or could stretch a little more”.  I see it all the time.  Work in a long and low frame at home and really get this, it is an essential element of your success.  An elastic and consistent contact with the riders hands must be maintained.

The most important element of this exercise is that the walk must maintain its rhythm.  He should stay light in the shoulders and not drop onto the forehand.  The hind legs should remain well engaged.  During the retake of the reins the horse must accept the contact without resistance in the mouth or poll.

Common Faults

Often the horse becomes irregular in the walk and the foreleg and hind leg on the same side move almost on the same beat so that the walk tends to become an almost lateral in its movement.  This ambling irregularity is a serious deterioration of the pace and will cost you dearly in a test situation.

Try this exercise to improve your control of the walk…

Experiment with the tempo of the walk by using your abdominal muscles to slow the pace.  Whilst in medium walk, with the horse ‘on the bit’ bear down (push of the guts against the skin, which we do naturally when we clear our throats and which good riders do all the time).

This is not easy for most riders, most bear down and give too much with the hand, or bring the hand back and suck in the stomach (which is not a bear down).  Riders also find it nearly impossible to bear down and breathe at the same time.  This comes with practice.  Remind yourself to breathe.  It is not easy to utilise the bear down to regulate the tempo of the walk, but as with everything, practice makes perfect.

  • Slow the walk to the very slowest you can achieve (using bear down – not reins) … then try to slow a little more.  You will be surprised at how slow your horse can walk! But you must maintain purpose.  This is not a slow amble, it’s a slow march.
  • Release the bear down and with swinging hip movements that follow the horses natural rhythm encourage the horse to walk forwards – not fast, just marching forwards.
  • When you have achieved a good forward walk, allow the reins through your hands and go for the free walk.  Remember to keep a contact.
  • Re-take the reins by ensuring that you are following the horses head movement with your arms – exaggerate if you have to.  Don’t bother vibrating or tweaking just follow the head movement and gradually take up the reins.  Your horse should come back up to you without resistance.  Once he’s there – do nothing, just hold.
  • In the early days the re-take might take a length of the school.
  • You can judge your improvement by aiming for shortening the time it takes to achieve the re-take with a goal of one-horse’s length.
  • Use the bear down again to slow the horse and repeat the exercise.

By repeating this exercise or taking part of it and practising you will begin to take control of the tempo, rhythm and balance of the horse.  You will begin to feel what it is like to regulate the pace.

So, back where we started, regularity, rhythm, balance, freedom, tempo – get this right and you have the basis for a good transition into trot, a great transition into canter and maximum points in the collectives for your walk.

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Footfalls of the walk

Quick Quote: “It is a mistake to keep the horse on the bit for too long. He must be relaxed at the walk on the long rein regularly and afterwards he must be carefully put back together again.”  N.Oliveira (1998, 42)

The next post in the series will be the trot and what you need to look out for to improve your collective marks for the trot work.

Until next time, have fun!

Patricia, The Dressage Tipster

help@likecrystal.com