Monday, October 21, 2013

Ask The Judge | 10/21/2013

Questions About Dressage

With Amy McElroy

Amy McElroy is a USEF R judge, qualified to officiate at any USEF recognized show at all national dressage levels. She rides, trains and teaches at Fairlane Farm in Aiken and judges about a dozen dressage shows and events each year. In her popular Ask the Judge column, she answers readers' questions about dressage.

Dear Amy,

I was recently at a dressage show and I saw a Training Level Rider test. I am interested in entering this class, but I would like to know what differences there would be between this test and a traditional Training Level test?

                                                                                       -Learning Every Day

Dear Learning,

In 2013, the United States Equestrian Federation designed three additional dressage tests. These are known as the Rider Tests. They are offered at Training, First and Second Levels: one test for each level.

The purpose of the 2013 Training Level Rider Test, according to the USEF is:

"To confirm that the rider sits in the correct posture an alignment an shows correct mechanics in walk, rising trot and canter. The seat is sufficiently independent for the rider to maintain a steady, elastic rein contact and encourage the horse to stretch into the contact. The horse is ridden actively forward showing impulsion and balance required for the level, bends equally to the left and right sides on turns and circles, and makes smooth, willing transitions."

There are a number of similarities between the traditional Training Level test and the new Training Level Rider test. Here are some of them:

           1. You perform and are judged individually.
           2. The test is ridden in a standard or a small dressage area.
           3. Only one judge is mandatory.
           4. There is a prescribed set of movements you need to perform.
           5. Tests start and end with a halt and salute.
           6. If you have three errors you will be eliminated.
           7. The difficulty of the test resembles a Training Level test.
           8. There are many of the familiar Training Level movements, such as 20-meter circles, changes of rein, medium and free walk and a stretch circle.
           9. The halt may be performed through the walk.
         10. USEF dressage rules apply.

There are also some major differences, such as:

           1. There are no scores for the individual movements of the test.
           2. The directives are focused on the rider's position.
           3. If you make an error, you will have .5 points deducted. If you make a second error, 1.0 additional points will be deducted. (In a traditional Training Level test, 2.0 points are deducted for the first error; 4.0 points for the second.)
           4. All trot work must be rising, except a few steps (4-8) of sitting are permitted during transitions.
           5. There is a different set of collective marks - the traditional "gaits, submission and impulsion" are not noted.
           6. The collective marks are your only scores. There are five and they all have a coefficient two. The highest possible score on each collective is a 10. Therefore, the perfect test would earn you a 100.
           7. Scoring is in decimal points; for instance you might get a 7.2 on one of your collective marks. (In a tradition Training Level test, scoring is in half points: you might get a 7.0 or a 7.5.)

The collective marks and what they mean.

           1. Rider's Position. The rider's ear, shoulder, hip and heel are aligned vertically when sitting at all gaits. The trunk is slightly in front of the vertical when in rising trot. When seen from in front of behind, the rider is straight and symmetrical, with even shoulders, hips and stirrups. The rider sits in harmony with the mechanics of each gait. The hands maintain a steady, elastic contact with the horse's mouth.
           2. Rider's Correct and Effective Use of the Aids. The rider prepares for and performs the movements using subtle, tactful and effective aids. The horse is appropriately bent through the turns and on circles and is straight when moving on straight lines. The horse responds willingly, giving the impression of clear communication between rider and horse.
           3. Horse's Response and Performance. The horse's training appears to be following the principles established by the Pyramid of Training. The horse moves actively forward with a consistent tempo in each gait, and reaches confidently to the bit. The transitions are performed willingly and smoothly. The rider demonstrates the horse's clear reactivity to both lateral and longitudinal aid influence.
           4. Accuracy of the exercises. The geometry of the movements is correct in terms of their size, shape and placement in the arena. The circles and half circles are round, have the correct diameter and they originate and terminate at the correct place. The corners are performed as one quarter of a 10-meter circle.
           5. Harmony between rider and horse. Both horse and rider appear calm focused and confident. They perform competently at the level and are pleasant to watch.

The Training Level Rider test is good for riders and horses of all ages. It is appropriate for people who want more input on their position and effectiveness and less focus on their horse. I would encourage you to try a test. It is a different way to be critiqued, and I think you will find it as enjoyable to ride as a traditional test. Good luck.

This article is copyrighted and first appeared in The Aiken Horse. It is reprinted here by permission.