How to ride a perfect centre line

  • It opens and finishes each dressage test you ride, and that’s why the centre line should never be underestimated. Here we explain how to nail it every time.

    1. Give yourself time

    Before you start a dressage test make sure you give yourself a good run up to the centre line. Ride a large turn beyond A to give yourself the best possible chance of being straight before you enter the arena.

    2. Look at where the judge is

    A common mistake riders make is riding directly from A to C. While this is technically correct, some judges (especially when they are in their cars) might not have parked exactly at C. Look to the judge and ride directly towards them, fixing your eyes on either them or a point beyond them to help you ride straight.

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    3. Keep your horse forward

    Make sure your horse is reactive to your leg riding them between your leg and hand into an equal contact. Think of your horse as being tunnelled between your legs while maintaining an active rhythm without being too fast. Riding forwards can will help you to stay straight and help prevent your horse from wandering and wobbling.

    4. Don’t practise halting on the centre line too much

    If you ride a halt on the centre line each time you ride down it, your horse will anticipate the halt and come behind your leg. Therefore, don’t halt every time and if your horse goes to drop behind your leg, kick them forward.

    5. Prepare your horse for the turn

    This applies for both ends of the centre line. Don’t leave your preparation until it’s too late. Make sure you are on the correct diagonal in trot to help maintain your horse’s balance. Think of the turn as a half 10m circle.

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    6. Work out which rein is best for your horse

    Most of the time you will enter the arena on the rein you are due to continue on once you have ridden your centre line. But if your horse is considerably better on one rein than the other (for example if he is less supple and has a tendency to fall in or out one one rein), consider entering on the better rein each time.

    7. Poles

    If you are really struggling to ride or maintain straightness, try setting poles up either side of the centre line to ride between.

    8. Remember these marks count

    The two centre line movements are both worth 10 marks — they are easy marks to earn, but they are also very easy marks to lose.

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