Friday, October 24, 2014

Ask the Judge | 10/24/2014

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 will be moving up to the Novice Eventing Level this fall, and I am planning to show Novice Eventing Test B. Do you have any tips on how to ride this test successfully?

                                                                                       -New Novice Eventer

Dear Eventer,

I think Novice Eventing Test B is a great “move up” test because it rides smoothly and it is symmetrical. It goes by fast, with only 15 boxes for judges to score, and it takes approximately three minutes and 40 seconds. Although it is a step up from the Beginner Novice tests, it is still designed to be ridden in a small arena (20 meters by 40 meters), and a small arena is mandated at all USEF/USEA recognized events. Some schooling shows might run this test in a large arena, so be sure to check with the show organizer.

As in Beginner Novice, all trot work at the Novice Level may be ridden either rising or sitting, unless the test states otherwise. I would rise to the trot if your horse would go forward more freely when you are rising than when you are sitting. You will not automatically score higher if you are sitting. A “10” is possible sitting or rising because what counts the most is how well your horse is moving.

n this test, the medium walk is scored in two separate boxes. In box #12, “Transition to the Medium Walk,” the score includes the transition and the walk itself. Box #13, “Transition from Medium Walk to Free Walk to Medium Walk,” has a coefficient of two (meaning the points count double.) In this box you are being scored on the quality of the medium walk and on the transitions to and from the free walk. Remember to keep your medium walk marching and overtracking (your horse’s hind feet step over the hoof prints of his front feet) with a slightly open frame. For the free walk, allow the horse as much freedom in stride and frame as possible.

The most difficult movements in this test are Boxes #2 and #7. Box #2 reads: “B, turn right in working trot and E turn left in working trot;” Box #7, the mirror image, reads “E turn left at working trot; B turn right at working trot.” B and E are the letters opposite one another on the center of the long side, so these two movements call for the horse and rider to turn to the inside and cross the center of the ring to change direction.

Of utmost importance here is the geometry and accuracy of the turns. For Box #2, plan your turn so that you leave the track to curve onto the B-to-E line: this turn is similar to how you would turn onto the centerline. Ride directly over X: your horse should be totally straight at X. Then start planning your turn to curve off the B-to-E line to join the track again, in the same way as you turn off the centerline and onto the track. This movement can be difficult because the turns onto and off of the B-to-E line are tight. Many people receive disappointing scores because their geometry needs more accuracy: they don’t turn onto the B-to-E line, or they fail to ride over X. (The mirror image movement at Box #7 needs to be ridden in exactly the same way, just in the opposite direction.)

Transitions in the Novice test are similar to those in the Beginner Novice test because they give the rider freedom to make transitions between the letters rather than at an exact point. This gives you time to be prepared and keep your horse in as much balance as possible. As in Beginner Novice, you may include a walk step between the trot and the halt.

Trot work in this test is performed in the working trot. A correct working trot is when the horse is moving forward actively with a regular, unhurried stride. Canter work in this test is the working canter. A correct working canter should be clear three-beat, and not too quick. The horse should be in a fairly balanced position at all gaits. All bending on curves, turns and circles should be executed without any resistance while maintaining the gait.

Here are some final tips for this test:

  1. Ride your horse well forward in ground covering strides.
  2. Maintain a steady frame with some accetance of the bit.
  3. Prepare for all movements, curves and turns.
  4. Maintain bend where needed.
  5. Remember your geometry: it does matter.
  6. Keep your walk work eager and forward moving and be sure your horse is overtracking
  7. Have fun.

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