Struggling to learn and remember your dressage test? Here’s the secret to success…

Here’s some great advice on how to best learn and remember your dressage test from grand prix dressage rider and trainer Kate Cowell.

Going wrong in your dressage test is most infuriating and you certainly can’t blame the horse. Whether it’s that awful feeling when your mind goes totally blank or you’ve ridden to the wrong letter, or purely because the horse is playing up and the distraction has caused you to take the incorrect route. For whatever reason, we kick ourselves as under British Dressage rules the judges take two marks from your total score if you go wrong once, four marks for the second error and it can end in elimination for error of course the third time. So what is the best sure-fire way of ensuring this doesn’t happen to you?

The most common way is to memorise the letters or the shapes of the test. However both of these are from a ‘bird’s eye’ point of view. This can be hard to transfer to actually riding the test and being ‘in the moment’, particularly if the horse starts to be less consistent to ride or the rider forgets to breathe!

The best fool-proof way to learn a test is to actually visualise riding the test. Find somewhere quiet, sit in a chair and imagine you are on your horse in the competition arena riding the test. When you get proficient at it you can bring in more aspects such as hearing the judge’s bell ring to start, how your horse feels, what you need to remember before each movement, where you need to ride stronger for the extension for example, or be more relaxed for the walk and how your position feels.

Finally, always ride through the test at home as repetition is the key so the test become autonomous.

Now you’ve got that advice in mind, take a look at these dressage competitions available to enter where you can show off what you’ve learnt…

British Dressage

Date: 2 March
Venue: Badgeworth Arena, Axbridge, Somerset
Details: Summer qualifier
Enter now

Iberian Dressage Masters (MCI GB)

Date: 3 March
Venue: Cobham Manor, Maidstone, Kent
Details: Classes for MCI GB members
Enter now

Unaffiliated dressage

Date: 3 March
Venue: Fenland Equestrian Centre, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
Details: Classes from intro to elementary
Enter now

Riding club dressage

Date: 14 March
Venue: Witham Villa Equestrian Centre, Broughton Astley, Leicestershire
Details: Classes include intro, prelim and novice tests. There is the option to hire a horse or bring your own
Enter now

Unaffiliated dressage

Date: 30 March
Venue: Bractullo Mill Equestrian Centre, Forfar, Angus
Details: This is an open dressage competition run under BRC/BD rules
Enter now

Unaffiliated dressage

Date: 31 March
Venue: Tumpy Green Equestrian Centre, Cam
Details: This competition includes classes from intro up to elementary, including second round Trailblazers qualifiers.”
Enter now

Visit for full competition and training listings

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