6 Ways to
Have a Great
Dressage Test

21 April 2019

If you compete in Dressage shows, you’re probably used to reading comments like “more uphill” or “stuck on pirouette” when you review your tests.

Here are some typical things that will impress your Dressage judges, from the perspective of a scribe and judges’ liaison, so you don’t make these mistakes the next time you show.

1. Arrive On Time

You might think that arriving just in time for your ride constitutes being on time. Not so.


If there’s a scratch or a no-show, judges like to keep moving. While you’re not obligated to ride ahead of your time, it’s in your best interest to do so if the opportunity arises.


Head to the ring just a smidge early, and for heaven’s sake, don’t dawdle if the warm-up ring steward sends you on your way.


2. Mind Your Manners

Always try to check in with the judge’s table when you enter the ring. State your name and number, which is not only polite, it keeps your scores from possibly being recorded on the wrong test form.


A quick “Thank you” when leaving the ring never hurts either!


3. Don't Test Above Your Level

Your Dressage test should be challenging but not impossible. However, the start of every season seems to bring with it a host of competitors who have suddenly moved up a level, not always deservedly.


Guess what - your level doesn’t necessarily tally with the calendar year!


It’s always better to do a clean test at a lower level than to be a disaster at a higher one. This happens too with elite riders who are campaigning new horses for the first time.



4. Be Careful with Discipline

Being too harsh with your horse is equally as bad as being too lenient. Judges don’t like “hands-y” riders, and they don’t care for competitors who won’t call a ride when a horse is out of control either, which puts everyone in danger.


Just admit when it’s not your day and move on.


5. Mind Any Sloppy Salutes

Your salute is the first and the last impression you give the judge. Your opening salute also sends a message of what you expect to your horse.


Make your movements confident, and give a square and smooth stop, with a crisp, proud salute. Anything less is like a ballet dancer facing the wings and just standing there instead of taking a proper bow.


6. Don't Ambush the Judge After Your Class!

If you’re not sure about a comment on your test or have a legitimate question (notice the word “legitimate”), go to the show office and ask if it’s possible for them to arrange a brief moment with the judge.


Do not lay in wait for the judge on the way to the lunch buffet, the bathroom, their hotel, or worst of all, the airport.


Be memorable for all the right reasons!


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Words by Patricia Salem


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