Sometimes learning your dressage test is one task too far on top of all of the other bits you need to remember while competing. We all dread that moment when your mind goes totally blank mid-test and you’re left standing there like a lemon, your horse confused and the judge madly beeping their horn.
To help you gain the confidence in learning a dressage test and to help prevent you from forgetting where you’re meant to be going, here are some common methods used to aid memory — each person will have a different learning style, so it’s all about finding the one that works for you.
Rather than trying to remember your test as it is written on the sheet, try to think of it as a pattern. You will hear a lot of people say “halt in the middle”, “circle at the end”, “canter in the first corner”. Drawing out the test on a blank piece of A4 can help you remember the pattern.
Look at the dressage test and think about why one movement might come before another. Making sense of the test will help prevent mistakes.
Close your eyes and imagine you are riding through the test. You can also use your finger to trace the test in mid-air.
Perhaps you will find it useful to ride through the test with someone you trust on the ground telling you if you make any mistakes. It might be beneficial to not practice it too much with the horse you are planning to ride the competitive test on, as your horse might start to anticipate the movements. You could even ‘walk, trot and canter’ your way through the test on your own feet — you might look silly but it’s a great tool!
Watch the test
Often video channels like YouTube will have recordings of people riding the test you are trying to learn.
Once you are confidently learning the bones of a test it might be beneficial to learn the exact preparation you will need to do for each test too. This might be instinctive for some, but for others it isn’t and it will help to boost your marks.
On the day
Try to look at the test before you go into the arena on show day to try and refresh it in your mind.
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