8 ways to earn more marks in a dressage test

  • Do you sometimes find yourself feeling like you’re banging your head against a brick wall when it comes to improving your dressage scores?

    If so, why not take a look at some of these top tips which could help you push those percentages higher when it comes to performing within the white boards.


    Nail your warm-up. Get to know your horse before you go competing and learn how long he needs warming up before he reaches his peak. Ideally you want your horse to peak as he goes into the arena, so you don’t want to over- or under-do it.

    The warm-up can obviously be quite a stressful place too, so try your best to focus on you and your horse while being aware of fellow riders and remaining polite at all times. 

    Don’t rush 

    Once the bell has gone don’t feel like you need to immediately make a U-turn and whiz up the centre line in fear of annoying the judge. Obviously don’t go round and round the arena wasting time, but give yourself the opportunity to get everything in order and ride a good centre line. 

    First impressions

    Make sure you show the judge a centre line that they will struggle to award you a low mark for. This is the first time the judge will properly scrutinise you and so it is essential that you ride a straight line (on the centre line of course) in a fabulous trot or canter (depending on what is required of you from the test). The centre line will be the first and last impression he gets of you and your horse so it will set the standard for your marks throughout. And don’t forget to smile! 

    Ensure your circles look like circles 

    It sounds obvious, but these are so often badly ridden within a dressage test. Have a clear line in your head of where your circle is going to be and look around the circle as you ride around it.

    Long side 

    Use the long sides of the arena to show your horse off to the judge. This also applies to riding diagonal lines. You can check your horse is listening to you by giving them a touch of leg through the corner (the judge won’t have a very clear view of you doing this from the angle they are sat at on C). Then think about riding forwards and uphill down the long side. 


    Use your corners. You must ride into your corners — they are not the same shape as the turns you would ride on a circle where it involves a softer curve. Using your corners will also help you to set your horse up for the next movement, both by giving yourself more time and to get your horse’s hocks underneath him. Don’t think too much of being backwards on the turns to help the fluidity of the test. Also bear in mind not to do anything drastic when it comes to making an adjustment to your horse on the short sides as you are in full view of the judge! 


    This is very important! Remember all of this competing is meant to be FUN. Channel your inner Charlotte and Valegro, get out there and good luck! 

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