Piggy French's tips for preparing for a dressage test

 The work you put in at home is essential for competition success

The work you put in at home is essential for competition success

The training and preparation you do at home will have a huge influence on how well your horse will go at a competition. Being as prepared as possible will help you and your horse stay relaxed.

Top event rider Piggy French shares with you the three key areas to focus on before the big day so you and your horse can wow the judges.

1. Learn your test

It’s vital to learn the test you’re going to be riding well in advance of your competition. You need to know it inside out and back to front, so don’t leave it until you’re travelling to the event to learn it – that’s too late and a sure-fire way to let you and your horse down.

 Some riders learn their dressage test by drawing it

Some riders learn their dressage test by drawing it

How you learn your test is up to you and you’ll need to work out what method works for you.

Some riders draw it out on paper or buying a ‘Learn a test’ wipeable board is a popular choice.

Other ways of learning your test include writing it down, walking through it on foot, or memorising it by reading it thorugh several times.


Whatever way you learn your test note what movements are included in each set of marks -take time to study this and you could pick up valuable marks for accurate riding.

2. Do you homework

If you’re constantly working your horse in a big arena – when you come to ride your test for real in a 20m x 40m arena or 20m x 60m arena you may well find this feels quite tight and the movements come up very quickly.

To help you, work in a correctly marked out dressage arena. You don’t need to spend a fortune on buying white boards, but measuring out the space will really help you – use jump poles to mark the corners and cones or buckets with the appropriate letters on.

3. Run through the movements

Riding each of the individual movements required in your dressage test is essential but stringing some of the movements together so you get a feel for how to ride it accurately is also advisable.

It can be useful to run through the whole test with some horses, but others are very clever and will start to anticipate what’s coming next – if this sounds like your horse, vary the order of the movements to keep him listening to you.

Remember the judge is looking for a test that flows and looks natural and this will only happened with practise.

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