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'Enter At A' - Hints for the best entry!

Enter at A!

A good first impression is what we should strive for.  If helps you to feel more positive and gives the judge a postive expectation.

1.   You should know beforehand which is the best rein for your horse to enter in and have practised this at home repeatedly.  Using cones is great to start with, but practise without as well.


 2.   As you enter the competition area, walk over to the judge and writer, smile and let them know your number and name if necessary.  Make sure they can see your number.  If you are not allowed a whip, drop it out of the way.  


 3.   When you go to into the area just around the outside of the arena, you should have enough time to go in both directions all the way round in trot, allowing your horse to see everything from either side.  End up on the rein you want to enter in.  Wait for the bell to ring, if it has already rung before you can go round each way, remember, you still have 45 seconds...don't rush!


 4.  That 45 seconds is quite a long time.  Have a go at home and trot around the outside of a marked out area of the same size, just to see for yourself what you can do before entering.  However, if you go over the 45 seconds, you will incur a 2 mark penalty (from each judge).


 5.   If you have the opportunity of entering from outside the arena, take it!  It gives you lots more time to get your straight line organised.


 6.   If you have to enter from inside the arena, do so from the best rein and make sure you have practised the turn onto the center line.  Make sure you look at A, then look over at the judge as you are turning, you want to get onto the center line reasonably quickly.  Try never to make the turn too big, overshooting the center line looks messy.  If you turn a little too early, it is easier to get onto that line.


 7.   Make sure when you turn, you keep that A marker on the outside of your turn.  If you incorporate the A marker on your inside, you will have to correct the bend just as you come in. Stay close to the marker.


 8   If you start further back and can already get onto a straight line well before entering, do so, but ride very close to the A marker so you don't need to do to many little adjustments of balance and straightness as you go in.


 9.  Make sure you enter with a good amount of activity.  Often you see riders doing so well around the outside, then stop riding as they come in.  The horse loses all purpose and activity.  This may well compromise straightness and balance and you don't want to be worrying about this.


10.   A postive entry is very important. Take a deep breath and smile at the judge!  This will all help towards feeling positive about the test.


11.  If you are not halting, do just remind yourself as you come in whether you are turning left or right at C.


12.  Look directly at C, keep moving your horse on towards this, which should be between your horse's ears.


13.  If you have a wobble on the center line, don't change anything, just ride straight on to C! Trying to rectify this most likely will make the situation worse.


14.  Prepare for the turn at C.  Know how far back your horse needs to be prepared for the turn.  If they know which direction they are going, it avoids any indicision and loss of balance when you get right up there.


15.  You don't want to turn to early, but the horse is not telapathic, make sure you give it a clue!  Just turning your head slightly should do it, or turn your shoulders/hips before actually asking the horse to turn. you have entered, full of energy, big smiles, sitting up, looking for your turn, you can just remind yourself of that next move!  Have fun!

To Rise or Not to Rise?


Short answer:  You can do either or mix and match through your test!  

If you start off in rising trot, then feel half way though a movement you would have better control in sitting, then do so, as long as you don't compromise the horse's way of going.  

Vice versa as well, if you feel you want to do the two 10m circles or half circles in sitting trot, but then find the horse gets tense, gently go up to rising.  It makes absolutely no difference to the marks the judge will give you if you sit or rise, what will make the difference is if the horse becomes tense/tight over the back or changes rhythm, tempo, etc., because you are sitting.  You will certainly see your marks drop if this happens!

So, whilst you can, if you want to do most of it in rising, do so.  Of course you will have to develop sitting trot to make the transitions as smooth as possible, so if you don't do much sitting, start practising at home.  Have a nice soft (but forward) trot going and sit for a stride or two.  If you or your horse gets tense, go back to rising.  Constantly do this so that you both gradually build up more and more strides.  You have all the time in the world. Sit for a few strides longer in and out of your transitions. If you feel yourself tense up, forget the transition and just go back to rising.

I have been asked if the judge will score higher for riders that sit more (the assumption being they are 'better' riders).  Answer is no! (I've asked!). However, as you both develop, you may find it easier to get the best results if you are sitting, especially in the lateral movements. 

It is not about being a 'better' rider if you can's about knowing the stage of development of your horse and yourself and it's about showing the judge the harmony between you both.  If you insist on sitting but your horse gets choppy and tense because you are also tense, or gripping hard, this will not produce a good mark.  If you feel soft and relaxed in sitting trot, but the horse is clearly unhappy, check it's back/saddle/etc.  If you feel soft and relaxed and more connected whilst sitting and your horse responds more positively to you and the work, yes, you will get better marks, so it's something to aim for.

Sitting trot is not compulsory until you get to Medium, and even then, you can still do the Med trot in rising.  



'Give & Re-Take' the reins...understanding what the judge wants to see.

After watching hundreds of videos and seeing riders struggle with this, I though a short article with a quick drawing might be of help if you are struggling to know exactly what is needed.

What is the judge looking for?  A complete release of the reins (or rein if only one rein is required to be released).  You should have loops!  In other words, a clear release of contact, not just a loose rein.

Hopefully you will find this of help:

Preparation: At least four or five strides away, check to see if your horse is as balanced as possible, has the right bend if you are turning on a circle and you are aware of the rhythm under you. A few little half halts may be necessary.

Few steps prior: A couple of tiny releases with your hand. Make sure they are tiny enough the judge will not see them, but clear enough for your horse to pay attention and prepare for you to completely release the contact.

During: Gently move your hands forward (without you tipping forward yourself, otherwise you will find your horse will fall onto it's forehand with your weight). They must go FORWARD towards the horse's mouth, NOT up in the air.

There must be clear LOOPS in your reins!


After a stride or two, and you have a clear release of the contact, bring your hands back smoothly and gently so don't cause your horse to throw it's head up.

The judge does not want anything to change. When you release the rein, the horse should not fall on the forehand, raise it's head, come behind the vertical, lose balance, rhythm, impulsion or alter the tempo. The 'frame' should stay the same. Obviously this is what we are aiming for however, it may take a fair bit of schooling for you and the horse to perform this movement really well, but you will find your marks increase the more you both practise this.


17 Tricks To Remember Your Dressage Test!

17 Tricks To Remember Your Dressage Test!


dressage test sheetWe all have our favourite ways of learning a dressage test, and usually riders stick to one or two methods. However, the more choices you have in learning a test and using different options, the more likely it is you will be able to remember it, even under difficult or stressful conditions. I have here a list which I not only use myself, but ideas that have been hugely helpful for the riders I work with. These cover many different learning styles and include practical suggestions and mental strategies with the help of NLP, Hypnosis & Visualisation.

1.   Start to learn your test a few weeks before the competition. The longer you have to learn it, the better you will feel and the less stress will be associated with competing. Remember, anxiety and tension will affect not only you, but your horse. If you know the test by heart, that reduces your stress levels.

2.   I recommend you buy laminated test sheets with diagrams. You can buy these in a folder from British Dressage Online Shop or at Dressage Diagrams. This makes it easier to ‘see’ where you are going.

3.   Draw the test out over and over again. Different coloured markers for different paces. You can get A4 boards with the markers already printed out. Draw out the test, wipe it off. Repeat.drawing test

4.   Look at the test as a whole and run through it a couple of times, just to get the ‘feel’ of it before you start learning.

5.   Break it up into chunks/sections and make the chunks small. Memorize the small chunk. Have a cup of coffee, think about it again. Do that a few times in a day.

6.   Ride each ‘chunk’ in your mind. You will have already decided which is the best way to turn into the arena, depending on which way your horse turns more easily. Imagine sitting on your horse. You look up to see the best place for the turn, as you make the turn, you head directly for C , riding straight to that marker and the judge. As you do this, also imagine you can feel what it’s like to turn onto the centre line at A and ride that straight line to C. Will it be sitting or rising trot? How will that trot feel under you? How do your legs feel whilst they create and maintain the energy and straightness?Veteran

7.   You are memorising not only the test as a pattern on a sheet, but more importantly, you are memorising what it looks and feels like, and this will all sink into your subconscious. So put in as much as you can. As you approach C, what will you be doing to make that turn? How will that feel, with your hands, your legs, your body?

8.   Continue in small chunks all the way through the test, running it bit by bit and only moving on to the next piece when the first is memorized. It may seem a faff to do all this, but this is one way to really ‘know’ your test. If something happens half way through a test (that’s nothing to do with you), you are much more likely to just be able to continue with the test as you ‘know’ it.

9.   Using hypnosis can really help. This is where you deepen that visualisation into more of a trance state. A good time for this is when you go to bed. Have your test near you. Make sure you are not going to be disturbed. Turn the light and your phone off. ‘See’ yourself riding the test as if you were on your horse. Whilst you are relaxed, the patterns and images will drift further into your subconscious. This happens naturally and effortlessly and is reinforced when repeated.

10.   Each night, practise the hypnosis session. If you always fall asleep, then simply do this at another time of the day, perhaps sitting in a chair.

11.  Find a clear area of your living room, yard, etc. Simply ‘ride’ the test in this area on foot. feetBe very clear where the markers are and what movements you are doing where. You are showing your subconscious mind the test and it’s all going in to be memorised, (which is what you want to happen) so be accurate when you ‘ride’ it!

12.  If you are fortunate to be able to ride another horse that is not competing, then ride the test on that horse. This will give you the added benefit of doing the complete test without the danger of your own horse anticipating the movements.

13.  If you are a person that learns really well by listening to somethingsmall on the phone, call out your test and record it on your phone. Listen to it whenever you can. If however you start to ‘tune out’, then you need to do this in another way. I suggest sing the test! You can sing it to yourself again when you are actually competing (do remember not to do this out loud!).

14.  When you get to the venue, you can watch the riders before you, but make sure you watch one or two well before your test. If you watch only the last rider, and they go wrong, then that may very well affect you negatively. I suggest when you send your entry in, you ask for a late time. Get there early and watch a few tests. You want to feel that you can easily predict the next movement (almost as if you are ‘calling’ the test for them).

15.  Warm up then go through your test on your horse before you go in if you want. You are only looking to reinforce the pattern, not necessarily ride all the movements.

16.  Often you can find your test on YouTube. Make sure it's the right year! Choose high-scoring tests if you can. It can help to actually see what the test or movement should be and you can play it as often as you want.

17.  Using a caller. Most likely you can ask someone at the venue to call. thumb loudspeaker 1459128 1280Perhaps you are lucky enough to have someone coming with you who is prepared to call. Now this can be a real bonus, or it can put you off your test completely. You still have to know your test as callers actually can go wrong sometimes. But the main thing here is you must have some experience of listening to a caller and riding a test. It can be quite different. It can be a great back up, or a distraction, and you don’t want to find out which when you are actually in there. So practise this with someone at home first.

Remember...if you go wrong, it’s only 2 penalty points! It’s worth just stopping and giving yourself a moment to work out where you are in the test, what happens in the next few moves. If in doubt, walk over or shout to the judge and ask. This is far better than going blank then trying to guess.

 Copyright Amanda Kirtland-Page 2016

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