Dressage is the ultimate test of harmony and relaxation between horse and rider. Sometimes however, things with our horses don’t turn out quite how we want them to.
If you are frustrated with your dressage scores there are a few things that you can focus on in your schooling sessions that will help you to get your marks up.
Here we discuss our top five tips to improve your dressage score and get you into the ribbons at your next competition.
High dressage scores can be lost from riding your circles, serpentines and diagonals badly. To ensure that you are getting as many of those marks as possible you should really focus on riding the geometry of your test correctly.
To help with this, make sure that you know the distance between each of the letters so that you are riding the figures accurately to the right size and ride all the way to the markers.
Remember to look up to focus on where you are going and to use your aids correctly on circles and bends to ensure that they are properly round.
By focusing on the accuracy of the patterns that you are riding you minimise your chance of throwing away easy marks.
The free walk is a movement that still needs to be actively ridden. Many riders throw away marks at the walk because they see it as an opportunity to relax a bit before the rest of their test.
During the walk you are looking for your horse to be active and forward, in front of your leg yet relaxed. On the free walk, allow them to also stretch down and out, but do not throw away the contact.
To get those top scores for your walk you need your horse to have a big overtrack and a lot of stretch. Incorporate a lot of free walk practice into your home schooling to help improve your dressage scores.
Your entrance and square halt are the first impression that your judge has of you and should not be neglected when you are schooling for your test.
As you enter the arena focus on the letter C as this will help you to stay straight and on the centreline as you prepare for your halt.
It is important to remember that the score for your halt is not judged on just the halt itself.
Your entrance, approach to the halt and trot transition after the halt all affect your score.
Prepare for the halt correctly, riding all the way into halt and not simply stopping. With no preparation, the halt will be unbalanced and abrupt, losing you marks. Practice all of the elements of your entrance and halt and do not just perfect the square halt itself.
Though your entire test is marked, when you read your test you can clearly see which areas the judges are focusing on.
You can use this information to prepare your horse for what the judges are looking for during the sections of your test that are not the focus.
You can use corners and sections on the straights that are not the focus of your test to really prepare your horse for the next movement that the judges are focused on.
For example, if your test asks for a medium walk between RMC, followed by working trot at C, you should be using the corner before C to get your horse really soft and bending around your leg before asking for the medium trot.
It may sound ridiculously simple – but knowing your test by heart is one of the best ways that you can improve your dressage score.
Depending on your learning style, you might want to walk the test on foot, ride it repeatedly, visualise it, or draw it on paper to really cement the test figures and movements into your memory.
It doesn’t matter how your friends choose to practice, go with whatever method works best for you. By knowing your test really well you will be able to focus all of your energy at the event on perfecting your riding rather than trying to remember where to go and what to do next.