In partnership with Petplan Equine

When your goal is to improve your dressage marks, it’s useful to know what the judge is looking for when you enter the arena on competition day. Then you can fine-tune your training to work on key areas where marks are lost and in turn build your confidence and self-belief that you and your horse really can do it — helping you work towards competing at a Petplan Equine Area Festival.

In the video below, Petplan Equine Ambassador and international dressage rider and trainer Charlie Hutton talks us through one rider’s prelim 19 test, drawing our attention to what they ride well and what could be improved on in order to eek out even more marks next time out.

The video features Carina Perkins riding Prelim 19 on HRH Patrick, whom she has only been riding for four weeks.

Charlie provides feedback throughout the test and concludes by saying how important is to consider the collective marks when riding a dressage test.

“If we look down to the bottom of the test sheet we’ll see the collective marks there: rhythm, suppleness and contact,” he says.

1 Rhythm

“In rhythm, what we’re looking for is consistency and fluency, and that [the horse is working] the same on the left side and the right side,” says Charlie.

2 Suppleness

“In suppleness, we’re looking for the horse using their with elasticity, so free of any tension, and that can be mental tension as well as physical tension,” he adds. “We see loads of that [suppleness] in this test.”

3 Contact

“Then when we look at contact,” continues Charlie. “We’re looking to see if the horse follows the rein. In this test, we’ve got that stretching circle at V and we see that the rider really nicely allows the horse to stretch, and the horse does so and follows the hand very nicely.”

Charlie’s overall top tips

  • Consider how accurate you are — “Use the space of the arena as carefully as possible,” advises Charlie.
  • “Make your lines very clear and be very disciplined about riding corners, straight lines and circles. That will help when it comes to moving up the levels to novice as the lines get a little more difficult.”

Main image = stock image of Charlie Hutton training. Copyright: Your Horse/Kelsey Media

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