Understanding the feedback on your dressage test sheet can be a struggle, so we’ve translated a few commonly-used phrases:
Against the hand
The horse hasn’t been prepared properly so you haven’t got his attention, or kept his hindleg underneath him. As a result, his head is either too deep or too hollow. This problem commonly occurs when a rider enters with their hands low and wide, winching the horse’s head in to try and get him on the bit.
Needs more freedom and relaxation
The rhythm may well be fine, but tension is holding your mark down here.
Some unlevel steps
It could be the rein contact, but the rider needs to decide from this comment if there is a problem with the horse’s soundness.
This can cover a multitude of sins — hollowing or hesitant steps, the horse’s mouth coming open, his head going in the air, or his rider trying to drag him back by force.
The horse may appear spooky.
Now needs more engagement behind
This is a positive comment meaning that you are on the right lines and now just need to take your training further.
Must be more forwards
This doesn’t mean go faster and bigger, it means the horse should be more in front of the rider’s leg and have better impulsion.
Needs to be more fluent
A positive way of saying “irregular”.
A carefully ridden test
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the test was well ridden, but that the rider has done their best and may now need to put more energy into the test.