Are You Ready to Compete in Dressage?
You’ve been taking dressage instruction for a while now, and are tempted to take your horse to a show.
While the idea of taking part in a competition is exciting, you’re unsure if you have sufficient training for dressage riding in public. After all, you want to enjoy the experience, not be humiliated!
Take heart: you’re probably much better prepared than you think.
Your attitude to showing will have a big influence on what you get out of your big day.
- Are you happy to be at a show, whether you place or not?
- Do you want to use the incentive of upcoming competitions to improve your riding?
- Do you regard showing as an opportunity to see how your riding fits in with other riders at your level?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any or all of the above, your first show will be a success.
Dressage Movements Checklist
Once you feel comfortable with the following movements, you’re ready to compete. Remember I said, comfortable – you don’t have to be perfect!
- Can you ride the medium walk and the free walk?
- Can you bring your horse to a square halt from medium walk?
- Can you transition into a working trot?
- Can you trot straight up the center line?
- Can you trot on a 20 meter circle?
“That’s all?” you ask.
Yup! Now let’s find the right tests for you.
Choosing the Right Dressage Tests
Download Introductory Test A and Test B from the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) website. These tests require only walk and trot, which makes them ideal for the beginner to dressage competitions.
- Plan to ride both tests at the show.
During the first test you’ll be getting used to the competition arena. In the second test you’ll be much more relaxed, and get a higher percentage score.
- There are two arena sizes, small and standard. Most shows use the standard 20 x 60 meter arena, as it’s also required for the higher levels.
Download a diagram of the standard arena and familiarize yourself with the arena letters.
(Don’t bother learning the location of the letters R,S,V and P. They don’t come into play yet.)
- Memorize both your tests.
Don’t panic: you’re allowed to have someone read out the test movements for you at the show. A friendly voice during the competition will go a long way to calming your nerves!
- Here are some tips for riding a great dressage test.
Where to Find Competitions
Check online and at your feed and tack stores for information about ‘schooling dressage shows.’
These are events organized by local dressage associations and barns. They are much less formidable, and cheaper to enter, than the licensed shows which are run by the USDF and FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale).
You can wear normal riding clothes for schooling shows, and don’t have to braid your horse’s mane. The judges are very encouraging – they want you to succeed.
If you aim to have fun at your first dressage competition, you’ll be relaxed and so will your horse. This will guarantee an enjoyable show day and set the stage for many more in the future.