How to nail your first long arena dressage test

  • Riding in a long dressage arena (20m x 60m) for the first time can be a daunting prospect. In fact, there is nothing to fret about and H&H is on hand to offer you some useful tips.

    If you’re hoping to compete in a long arena dressage test soon, look no further than the H&H Festival of Dressage, taking place at Sheepgate (20-22 July). All the tests, except intro, will take place in 20m x 60m arenas — to include prelim, novice, elementary and medium.

    Time to think

    Instead of viewing long arenas in a negative light, think of them as actually giving you more space and time in which to ride your test. Ultimately, you have more time to think about your next movement, which is a good thing and should make it easier.

    Breathe, look up and don’t rush

    Having more time does not mean you should rush your test. Yes, the centre line may feel like it goes on forever, but don’t go flat out down it like you are about to steam roll the judge’s box. Remember to breathe, look up and ride straight, then maintain your horse’s natural rhythm throughout the test — do not try to hurry if you feel like it is taking ages. Naturally, if you are used to a 20m x 40m arena it will feel like you are taking longer to get there, but try to relax.

    Practice makes perfect

    Ideally, you’d like to be able to practise your test in a long arena before your competition, so you can get used to it and the feeling. But, if you do not have access to such an arena, another option is to set one up in a field using your own markers.

    Also, make sure you have practised each movement with precision and that you have a clear picture in your mind beforehand of how you want it to look. For example, make sure your circles are actually 20 metres and you don’t end up drifting too far down the arena.

    Use the long sides

    Use the long sides of the arena, plus the diagonals, to really show your horse off to the judge. Check your horse is listening to you by giving them a touch of leg through the corner, then think about riding forwards and uphill down the long side.

    Don’t forget your corners

    Like in any test, corners are really important. Ride into your corners and use them to set your horse up for the next movement, both by giving yourself more time and to get your horse’s hocks underneath him.

    Remembering the test

    The additional letters in a 20m x 60m arena are R, S, V and P on the outside, which is quite an easy order for remembering it, plus I and L down the centre line.

    In terms of learning your dressage test, diagrams can be purchased from the Dressage Diagrams website. Some riders will prefer to see the test drawn out in front of them, in order to memorise it better.

    Watch other riders

    Once at the show, if your times allow, it may help to watch other competitors ride through the test you are doing, so you can visualise how the movements fit into the arena being used on the day.

    Remember to enjoy it and SMILE!

    Join us at the H&H Festival of Dressage

    The H&H Festival of Dressage (20-22 July) is being held at Sheepgate Equestrian in Lincolshire on 20-22 July. Classes run from intro through to medium, with optional warm-up and music classes throughout the show. There is excellent prize money up for grabs and winners will take home commemorative rugs as well as other fabulous prizes. Entries close Friday, 13 July so enter now to ensure you can join in the fun.

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine — on sale every Thursday.

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