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Understanding your dressage test sheet

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Understanding the feedback on your dressage test sheet can be a struggle, so we asked some top judges to translate what is really meant by commonly-used phrases

Against the hand: The horse hasn’t been prepared properly so you haven’t got his attention nor kept his hindleg underneath him. As a result, his head is either too deep or too hollow. This problem commonly occurs when a rider enters with their hands low and wide, winching the horse’s head in to try and get it on the bit

Some unlevel steps: It could be the rein contact, but the rider needs to decide from this comment if there is a problem with the horse’s soundness

Must be more forwards: This doesn’t mean go faster and bigger, it means the horse should be more in front of the rider’s leg and have better impulsion

Horse resisting: This can cover a multitude of sins — hollowing or hesitant steps, the horse’s mouth coming open, his head going in the air, or his rider trying to drag him back by force

Needs more freedom and relaxation: The rhythm may well be fine, but tension is holding your mark down here

Inattentive: Spooking

Needs to be more fluent: A positive way of saying “irregular”

Now needs more engagement behind: This is a positive comment meaning that you are on the right lines and now just need to take your training further

A carefully ridden test: This doesn’t necessarily mean that the test was well ridden, but that the rider has done their best and may now need to put more energy into the test

This is an extract from an article published in Horse & Hound (3 June, ’10)

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