Six Tips To Improve Your Scores….At The Show!

Last week I talked about the warm-up and how to make sure you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, exactly how much time it will take to warm up your horse before you actually ride the test

This week we’re going to progress to the actual test and how you can improve your test score while at the show. Here we go.


1.) Canter Around The Outside Of The Arena Before Entering.

You will have a beautiful forward trot to enter with and make a fantastic entry and first impression.

Why? Because your best trot is always after a canter.

Generally speaking, I’ll canter my way around to “A” and transition just as I turn the corner to get on centerline and enter.

Practice this at home, you’ll be amazed at the jump in your first score of the test.

Perfecting your entry can enable you to start your test with an “8” or “9”.( I’ve actually scored two “10’s” using this technique. )

2.) Carry Your Whip In Your Left Hand.

Nothing looks worse than to see a nicely organized halt be flawed by the rider trying to switch the whip to his/her left hand so they can salute with their right hand.

And never salute with your right hand still carrying the whip. Your horse could easily spook waving the whip at him while you salute.

3.)Don’t Change Your Whip Hand During The Test.

Yes, at home you carry your whip on your inside hand most times, and change hands when you change directions.
But while competing, leave it in your left hand through the whole test.

It’s very distracting to the judge to see you changing your whip.
It makes them think there’s going to be a problem if the rider is taking the time to change the whip….don’t raise the judge’s antennae for no reason.

Always think quiet,flowing, confident movement while competing.

Less is more.

4.)Be Very Aware Of When You Are Profiling The Judge.

This is another opportunity to make a good impression.

Often times in the test you’ll be asked to change direction across the arena say from E to B for instance.

Make all your corrections prior to going across the arena.

Then be in perfect position as you profile the judge,ie:heels down, ear,shoulder,hip and heel lined up.

Hands in a comfortable 45 degree angle.

You want to look like a picture you’d see in a book illustrating the perfect position.

In the First Level Tests you are asked to halt 5 seconds.

Use this as another opportunity to show the judge your correct position.

Remember, at the end of your test there is a section called the “collective marks”.
In that section there is a specific score for “position of seat, correctness and effect of the aids.”

If there is a tie breaker it’s done by the “collective marks”.


5.) Always Read Your Test Between Rides.

Your score may not be posted and your test may not be totaled.

That does not matter.

What you want to see are the individual marks for each movement and the judges’ comments.

Ask the show secretary if you can look at your test. BE NICE, show secretaries have a very hard task and for the most part it is a thankless job.

Yes, it is your test, and yes you have a perfect right to look at it, and yes, make absolutely sure you look at it before riding another test. But be nice to the show secretary.

Along with reading the individual scores for each movement, read the judges hand written comments at the end of the test.

Taking heed to these comments alone can significantly improve your next test.

It shows great respect to the judge to go back in the ring and make a concerted effort to improve on the areas she/he commented on.

For example, it can be as simple as this: I had a comment on one test from the judge that said my throatlatch appeared too tight.

I was riding a Morgan stallion and even though I used the four finger method to check the fit, apparently as he came in frame and on the bit, it appeared too tight.

Something I would not of noticed riding.

I ALWAYS read my test before riding another test. Especially if it is with the same judge.
And yes, I went into the next test with the throatlatch two holes looser and guess what………The judges’ comment was “Throatlatch looks much better”.
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One time a comment was, “Try posting the lengthenings for a better score”.
I posted the lengthenings the whole rest of the two day show and improved that particular score by at least a point on each lengthening.

Some tests I received a two point increase on each lengthening .

Lengthenings at First Level are a co-efficient. (you receive a double score on that particular movement)

Just posting the trot for the lengthenings made the difference between coming in second to placing first.

6.) Video Your Ride

Most recognized shows these days have a professional videographer at the competition that you can sign up with and they do a beautiful job videoing your rides.

I highly recommend you do this so you can take it home to have in your library.

However, with that being said, the best case is to not only have it professionally done but also have a friend or fellow riding buddy video your ride so you can view it with your test right there at the show.

The professional videographer is going to have the DVD ready for you at the END of the show.

Having your buddy video you gives you immediate access to a fabulous learning tool.

You can sit down (make sure you bring your charger with you) and watch your ride with the test, and comments, and scores, and have no doubt about the judge and what they saw.
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I cannot tell you the number of times a student thought the judge was crazy and did not know what the heck they were talking about……….until they watched the video.

It is a fabulous tool to have at the show.

Colette Sossaman
-The ONLY Dressage training product that lets you download professional lessons to your portable MP3 player so you can listen in REAL TIME as you ride--and bring your lessons with you any time, any place.
www.ridinglessonstogo.com

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Comment by Colette Sossaman on November 20, 2009 at 9:50pm
Hi Tara,
First of all......Bravo....you have set a goal (and a very attainable one) for you and your mare.Now you can put a plan in place and start looking at dates to go to your first competition.
To answer your question about a whip.....yes you can carry a whip at any level any test. The exceptions pertain to Championship Classes. However, you can only carry one whip and it can be no longer that 43.3 inches or 110 cm. including the lash. You can not carry two whips and you can not carry an adjustable whip.They do measure your whip and I've had to trim the fray on the lash at times because they measure to the very thread end of the lash.It's not "approximately" 43.3 inches. It IS 43.3 inches. Best of luck to you and please let me know if I can be of any other assistance to you.
Comment by Tara Ragatz on November 20, 2009 at 1:33am
Colette, I am working my green horse with the goal of testing in Training Level next spring. You mentioned carrying a whip into the test. Can you clarify which levels this is acceptable at & which it is not? I was of the impression that a whip is never allowed in a test.
Also, for those levels where carrying a whip during the ride is acceptable, is a rider allowed to carry two? I typically train with two (to avoid the switching hands during my ride) and it would be helpful to know as I train this winter how I will need to be able to ride each exercise in the tests & work towards responsiveness from my mare using the external aids I will be allowed in the ring.
Thanks in advance for your reply, & thanks also for your insightful post! Tara =-)
Comment by Sharon Foley on November 17, 2009 at 7:45pm
Enjoyed your post. Great tips!
Comment by Barnmice Admin on November 17, 2009 at 11:05am
These are fantastic tips, Colette! Many thanks!

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