Dressage is a the term given for a competitive horse sport that involves progressive training of the horse to improve their obedience, suppleness, athleticism
and willingness to perform to the best of their ability.
A dressage competition involves the rider and horse performing a set sequence of movements in an arena, with each movement of the test being graded by a judge and given a mark out of 10.
Each movement of the test is marked out 10 with 10 being the highest and zero being not performed. The grades are as follows:
- 10 - Excellent
A 10 score is rarely given but does happen and is an excellent achievement.
- 9 - Very Good
A score of nine shows that the movement performed was of an excellent standard and is considered a very respectable and high mark.
- 8 - Good
A score of eight shows that the movement was well performed.
- 7 - Fairly Good
A score of seven is a fair score for a movement that was well tried but needs some improvements to reach the higher grades.
- 6 - Satisfactory
A score of six usually shows that the movement in question was performed but needs some improvements to reach the higher marks.
- 5 - Sufficient
A score of five shows that the movement was performed.
- 4 - Insufficient
A score of four shows that not enough was done to show the movement in question.
- 3 - Fairly Bad
A score of three shows that the movement was not shown in the way it was supposed to and needs considerable work.
- 2 - Bad
The movement was not shown correctly or fully achieved and needs considerable improvements to made to the horses training.
- 1 - Very Bad
The movement was not achieved or shown correctly and will need considerable improvements to be made.
- 0 - Not Executed
This can be either due to the rider missing out the movement or due to the movement being too much for the horses level of training.
- Marks are also given for riding ability and the horses collective score for movements during the test.
A competitor can lose marks for making an error of course, being incorrectly dressed, incorrect tack, talking through the test or if they fail to enter within the 45 second time allowed after being signalled to begin the test.
Elimination can occur if the rider begins before they are signalled by the judge, if they have any outside assistance during the test (with the exception of someone calling the test for them who will not incur penalties) or for any other infringements that may occur.
The competitor with the highest percent score at the end of the class is the winner, as a guide a score that is above 60% is a good score too have achieved with 70% being a very good score and 75 to 80% is an excellent score to finish on.
There are several different tests for each levels of the horses development, which gradually increase in the level of skill and technical difficulty. The marks achieved and comments given by the judge will help you to know when you are ready to progress to the next level, along with your own careful training programme.
The tests are marked on six main areas:
The horses rhythm and
regularity of paces should be maintained throughout the various movements
The horse should be relaxed throughout its whole body and not show signs of tenseness or resistance. Signs that a horse is relaxed include gently mouthing the bit and a willingness to stretch down into a rein contact.
The horse should sit in a light and even rein contact.
The horse should show correct impulsion and engagement of the hindquarters and show loose, elastic paces.
The horse should be straight in its way of going and not show any crookedness.
The horse should maintain its level of engagement, activity and suppleness
during moments of collection.
Levels of Dressage Tests
Stating off at Introductory the dressage levels gradually progress and involve more technical movements and requirements from the horse.
- Advanced Medium
- Prix St. Georges
- Intermediare I
- Intermediare II
- Grand Prix
Movements Within A Test
The movements required will depend on the level that is to be performed. For example during an introductory class the movements required often include movements such as turns across the school, 20 m circles along and transitions from walk to trot, with no canter required for this level. As the classes progress the inclusion of movements such as lengthened strides, medium trot, counter canter, half pass, rein back, shoulder in, flying changes, pirouettes, piaffe and passage are added.
The arena size will depend on the test being performed, but will have either part or a complete surround of white boards with letter markers positioned marking out the arena.
- Short Arena
During many of lower levels the short 20m by 40m arena is used. With the judge positioned at the marker C, of the arena.
The markers starting from C and running clockwise are C, M, B, F, A, K, E and H with G, X and D running directly below C down the centre line. The letter G is positioned between M and H, X is positioned between E and B and G is positioned between K and F.
- Long Arena
The long arena is 20m by 60 meters and in lower levels one judge is positioned at the C end of the arena. In the higher classes you have will have more than one judge, who are positioned at C, B, M, H and E.
The markers starting from C at the top and going clockwise are
C, M, R, B, P, F, A, K, V, E, S, H with G, I, X, L and D directly below C running down the centre line of the school. The letter G is positioned between M and H, the letter I is positioned level with S and R, X is positioned between E and B, the letter L is positioned in between P and V and the letter G is positioned between K and F.
Any horse can perform a dressage test and will benefit from the principles and training structure of dressage training. There are however certain horse breeds who appear to have a natural flare and ability to perform dressage to the highest standard. Horse breeds such as Andalusian, Danish Warmblood, Dutch Warmblood, Hanoverian, Lusitano, Westphalian and Oldenburg are particularly well known for reaching this high level of dressage training.
Both horse and rider need to be properly turned out and wearing the correct tack. Certain types of bits and nose bands are not permitted so carefully check beforehand to avoid elimination on the day. Martingales, breastplates and neck straps are also not permitted.
Equipment that the horse should be wearing:
At lower levels a plain snaffle bridle is required, at higher levels a double bridle will be required. Only certain types of bit and nose bands are permitted so check the rules beforehand, a plain snaffle such as an eggbut or french link along with a cavesson or flash nose band is acceptable for lower levels.
At lower levels a general purpose saddle can be used, although dressage saddles are preferable.
The horse should not wear any boots or bandages on its legs during the test, although you may warm up with them on.
A white square numnah should be used under the saddle with either a white, black or leather girth.
- Number Disc
At lower levels this is not necessary as you will be given a number to wear around your waist, however for higher classes a number disc should be applied to the horses bridle.
The rider should be well presented and be wearing the following:
Either a black jacket with a white stock or a hacking jacket with either a coloured stock or shirt and tie.
At higher levels a tailcoat is required.
The stocks should be neatly pinned with a stock pin.
White or cream jodhpurs should be worn.
Long black leather boots or at lower level short boots with matching coloured chaps are acceptable. Short boots may be worn on there own if jodhpur boot clips are attached.
A hard hat that is up to current safety standards. At higher levels a top hat is worn.
A long whip may be carried during tests.
Black or white gloves should be worn.
- Hair nets
Ladies with long hair should use a hair net for a neat finish.
Spurs can be worn at any level if appropriate.
So that you can keep on eye on when you are due to go in and do your test.
Both horse and rider should be immaculately turned. The horse should be wearing a clean saddle, numnah, girth and bridle, they should be thoroughly groomed with hooves painted, mane plaited, tail either pulled or plaited and quarter markers added. The rider should also be well presented wearing the correct competition clothing and with their number well displayed.