Riding the perfect dressage test doesn’t have to be hard! From quick transitions to riding into the corners, practising the essentials of test riding at home will help everything go smoothly on the day. Get to grips with these exciting exercises and you’re sure to be scoring the perfect 10 in no time.
Five to ten
This exercise will encourage your pony to respond quickly to your seat so you get a smooth transition.
1. Ride onto a 20m circle in walk.
2. Squeeze your pony with your legs to ask him to pick up trot.
3. Trot 10 strides then deepen your seat and squeeze a little with your upper thighs. You can use your voice to woah him, too. He should respond quickly so that he doesn’t add in any extra steps.
4. Walk five strides then pick up trot again and repeat the exercise.
Have a checklist in your head to run though when you ask your pony to make a transition. For a downwards transition ask first with your seat and legs, then you can sponge the reins if he still doesn’t respond.
If you find your pony always takes a stride or two to come back to you, begin asking him for walk one or two strides early.
In your corner
To make use of all the space you have when you’re in the arena, it’s important that you don’t fall into the habit of cutting corners. You should ride into them as well as you can while you’re schooling at home, too, so it’s second nature when you’re in a test. This simple exercise is a great way to practise.
Place two cones roughly 2m in from two of the corners in the arena.
1. Pick up working trot large.
2. As you ride into your first corner, keep the cone to your inside and press your inside leg on the girth to encourage your pony to bend around it. Then, ride in a straight line to the next corner.
3. Ride the next corner in the same way, then proceed in a straight line along the track.
4. Make a square turn across the centre of the arena. Do this by placing your inside leg on the girth, your outside leg slightly behind the girth to prevent your pony from swinging his quarters out, and give a slight half- halt with the outside rein to help him balance around the turn.
5. Ride straight, then make another square turn in the same way to complete the square shape.
You can try this exercise in walk, trot and, if your pony’s balanced enough, canter.
Taking your pony to a lesson or hiring an arena is a fab way to practise your skills in an unfamiliar environment without the pressure of competition.
For more exercises to prepare you for the ring, check out the September issue of PONY mag!