A grand entrance
Getting yourself off to a good start will give you the confidence boost you need, so make sure you know what to expect. You have 45 seconds after the bell goes to enter the arena and this is longer than you think – try it out at home.
Don’t rush into your turn, use the time to settle your pony and get him working in a good rhythm with plenty of impulsion. Then, when you’re ready, plan your turn and look straight down the centre line.
Aim for perfection
Accuracy is key to getting good marks. Even if your pony isn’t on the best form, don’t give up. You can still get marks for riding correct shapes and making transitions at the right time, so it’s totally worth putting in the extra effort to practise getting it spot on.
Polish your position
Make it a habit to check with yourself that you’re in the right position. Every time you pass B or E, think ‘head, shoulders, hips, hands, heels’ to make sure you’re still in the right place.
Rope in some help
Friends and family can be a great help, so don’t forget to make use of them. They can help you learn your test and even call it out on the day.
Try out a few different ways to learn your test to see which way suits you best, such as…
- reading and remembering
- drawing out a diagram
- practising on foot at home
- riding it section-by-section
Practice makes perfect!
It sounds obvious, but you need to practise. Even if you learn the test by heart, remember your pony doesn’t know it so you can’t just expect him to perform on the day. If you haven’t practised riding it or taught him the movements, you won’t do as well as you hope – this is especially true for movements such as…
Brush up on your etiquette
Good manners go a really long way, so make sure you know what’s expected at the competition. You should…
- acknowledge the judge and check they can see your number
- wait for the bell before entering the arena
- after your halt, finish your centre line and walk around the edge of the arena, leaving at A
- thank the judge when you’ve finished
Master your finale
Don’t forget to practise the end of your test. For the perfect halt, keep riding forward, but prepare your pony with a half-halt, so he knows you’re about to ask him to halt. Then, close your hand, apply your leg and sit quietly to ask him to halt. With practice, you’ll be able to feel if he’s square or not.
To salute, put both your reins into your left hand, lower your right to your side and drop your head to look at your pony’s withers. Count for three seconds, then look up, smile, pat your pony and take back your reins.
Remember you’re doing all this practice because you love riding, so don’t get stressed about it – just enjoy it! If you overthink, worry or become stressed, you’ll get tense and everything that you’ve worked on will go out the window. Keep relaxed and it will all come naturally.