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…

Sash & prosecco dressage

Date: 6 July
Venue: Beaver Hall, Leek
Details: “This competition has classes from intro to elementary and freestyle, plus a green horse class too. Rosettes will be awarded to sixth, with prosecco and sashes on offer too.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated dressage

Date: 6 July
Venue: Fenland Equestrian Centre, Wisbech
Details: “This show has classes from intro to elementary.”
Enter now

British Dressage

Date: 7 July
Venue: Moulton College Equestrian Centre, Moulton
Details: “This affiliated show has classes from prelim to advanced medium with qualifiers.”
Enter now

Unaffiliated dressage

Date: 7 July
Venue: Shedfield Riding School, Southampton
Details: “This show has classes from intro to advanced medium with qualifiers.”
Enter now

British Dressage & unaffiliated dressage

Date: 7 July
Venue: Inchcoonans Competition & Livery Yard, Errol
Details: “This show has classes from intro to advanced medium with qualifiers with affiliated and unaffiliated sections.”
Enter now

Evening unaffiliated dressage

Date: 8 July
Venue: Dorset Showground, Gillingham
Details: “This competition includes classes from intro to novice with prize money on offer.”
Enter now

Visit equo.co.uk for full competition and training listings