Girls Horse Club Blog

All Those Ribbons

Published by • Nov 1st, 2009 • Category: Guest Bloggers, Showing & Sport

by Michelle, age 12

All Those RibbonsIn the world of horses, shows can prove to be a very important part in any equestrian’s career. Though always winning is not necessary, it can never hurt to get a few blue ribbons. This blog is mainly for the girls competing at their first show, which is almost always a simple dressage test. In other words, this is a guide to perform that training level test like you own it.

Even if this isn’t your first time showing, it’s always a good idea to keep these points in mind…

1) IMPULSION: This is what keeps your horse moving forward with over tracking steps. For those not familiar, over tracking is when your horse’s hind legs go inside the hoof print left behind from your horse’s front legs. By achieving this, you also are achieving a good stride length and also a good pace.

2) RELAXATION: When you relax, then your horse will relax. You don’t want short stiff steps, you want an easy, flowing gait that is obviously smooth and relaxed.

3) CONTACT: Though you don’t have to be directly on the bit at the lower levels, contact shows that your horse listens to you and submits.

If you pay attention to those three things, then you’re sure to do great on your test! But wait — you may be wondering, how do I practice these things? That’s simple. The assumed answer would be to endlessly practice your dressage test. That’s right. Just not on the horse. Repeat: not on the horse. You do not want your horse to know the test, only you. I know it sounds crazy, but if the horse memorizes it then it will start to make assumptions which can highly affect your overall ride.

Here is a list of things to do to guarantee a good test:

1) Memorize the test! In some cases, you may be able to get a reader, but as you raise in the ranks then it’s up to you to know what to do. The more imprinted you can get the test into your memory, the easier you will fare later on.

2) Practice all of the figures in your test. Each level has it’s own movements, and you will HAVE to get them down to a science to get a good score. Pay attention to even the smallest details — it’s what dressage is all about.

3) Practice transitions. Super important! If I had gotten a better transition in one part of my test, then I would have gotten first place. Instead, I let my mount get lazy and didn’t hit off the canter at exactly the right part of the ring. That says something. Practice getting a halt to walk, walk to trot, trot to canter, and reverse.

4) Work on your position. This is absolutely mandatory! Dressage has a completely different posture compared to the rest of the English riding disciplines, which may make it hard for you to adjust, especially if you are usually a jumper. If you aren’t sure what the correct dressage position is, then look at pictures or watch videos of the pros, or ask a riding instructor. Since this is lower level, the best help I could give you is to have two major lines in your posture: ear – shoulder – hip – heel; and bit – rein – wrist – elbow.

If you have any further questions, ask the dressage star. In other words, leave a comment.

9 Nickers »

  1. Great blog! I’m going to a dressage show this weekend, but the goal here is not the ribbons. Its to get this horse I’m working with, Twister, ready for some bigger shows next year. He hasn’t shown in a long time, and he’s already a super spooky horse. If I can get him to relax even a little, it will be a successful day. I love crazy horses. They’re so much fun. ;)

  2. Good luck with that! :) And this blog isn’t just for ribbons, it’s to improve your overall experience in the show circuit. I just didn’t have any better options for the name. Lol ;D

  3. So dressage star, how many competitions have you attended in your years so far? I admire english riders like you. Most of my life ive ridden western so learning to ride English on my friend Izzy is a new expereince.. a fun one at that. Can you explain to me the signals used for a “half-pass” ? Im trying to learn that right now and its a little difficult.


  4. This year I have done 3 competitions, starting in the summer. My next one is November 15th. :) A half pass is the more difficult form of a leg yield, so make sure you have that completely mastered that before you even attempt. Half passes are more advanced, and usually you start seeing it in third level tests, out of the five levels (Training, First, Second, Third, Fourth).

    In other words, start up with the basic stuff and build up. Make sure whatever new things you try are with the guidance and supervision of a riding instructor, because you don’t want to teach your horse to do something wrong.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Ooh, here’s something I’d like to add on.
    Check out that website, it sort of breaks down the levels, so make sure you learn new things in a logical order of difficulty- remember, dressage is about perfection and you can never rush that.

  6. Thanks for the tips! Actualy izzy is around 18 years old so shes kinda teaching me. lol. My riding instructor feels that im ready for the halfpass but there’s so many signals to remember that its kind of confusing me. I’ll have to confide in her that i probably need to get back to the basics first. Best of luck to you in your dressage show. Maybe you could post pictures of your horse and the competition on here in the gallery! =0)

  7. Well, if your trainer says your ready, go for it! But youre right, a solid base is always good so just brush up on those first. I can’t help you with signals, because from my experience I’ve learned that different farms do different things. And sure, I’ll post pics. :)

  8. call me a crazy kid but for me its not about winning its about horses!

  9. : / I’m not saying its about winning… Read the second line. It’s about improving your horse. Would you rather have a slow paced stiff horse or a supple forward one? Dressage is a remedy as well as a sport, and trust me your horse will thank you for it.