Eventers are calling for new dressage tests to be introduced at 3- and 4-star level. Some riders and judges have complained about their fluidity and technicality.
The international tests have stayed the same since 2009 — apart from minor changes to 2- and 3-star tests that are being implemented in July — meaning that many top horses have only ever ridden this set of tests.
The FEI told H&H that its eventing committee would discuss the issue at its next meeting, for which a date has not yet been set, but that any new test would not be introduced until 2016 at the earliest.
International dressage judge Isobel Wessels, who works with the New Zealand eventing team, said that some of the tests are “really negative”.
“The degree of difficulty is not constructive and just makes for a rather awkward test,” Isobel told H&H.
“Some of the movements stop even the best horses’ natural paces coming through. The quality of horses and their ability to move is getting higher and higher, but you need tests that allow riders to show this off.
“I would try to have more fl owing movements and allow the more diffi cult movements to take place with support from the wall.”
Sir Mark Todd raised the topic in his first column for H&H a fortnight ago (13 March).
“I dislike the four-star test with endless counter-canter loops and I hate the flying changes off counter-canter on a circle,” Mark said. “It’s very hard for an event horse to be balanced enough to do that well, and it certainly isn’t required at the same level in pure dressage.”
Mark would like to see the introduction of tempi-changes at 4-star level — something that not all event riders agree with.
“Unless you need to be doing tempi-changes down to The Lake at Badminton I don’t think they should be included in the test,” said 4-star rider Spencer Sturmey, who has worked for Carl Hester.
“Tests need to go back to concentrating on the basics. Event horses have to be galloping fit and therefore have different muscle groups to pure dressage horses. We should be able to show judges truly correct work without upping the technical level.
“Eventing dressage doesn’t require trick movements and horses’ muscles shouldn’t be compromised for this over balance and paces.”
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (27 March, 2014)