As you move up from Intro to Prelim dressage test you will sooner or later be required to ride a serpentine. Richard has reached this point and this is how he went about tackling this new requirement...
Rich serpentines1

Richards’s tips and advice

I looked at the British Dressage Prelim 18 test and saw I would have to ride a three loop serpentine as part of the test. 

The three loop serpentine, on the surface looks like quite a simple thing to do, but it is a real test of how your horse performs with balance and straightness through changes of the rein. It also tests the riders spacial awareness because it requires you to divide the arena in to three sections which you need to judge with out the use of the arena letters. 

The Prelim 18 mark sheet says that the judge will be looking for “Quality of trot, regularity & tempo and uniform bend along the line of half circles”.


The school needs to be divided in to 3 equal sections of thirteen and a third meters long. When you first start riding a serpentine you can put markers to help you ride the correct length – cones are good or even just tie bailer twine at the appropriate point on the school fence. Each half circle of the serpentine is joined by a straight line of between 2 and 4 trot strides (or around 6.6 meters)
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To get a feel for when you need to turn you might want to ride through the serpentine shape a few times in walk before riding it in trot (as required in the test). If you carry a whip then do not swap it from side to side as you change rein, this is not required and will needlessly add complexity.

When riding the serpentine you need to have a good feel for how straight you ride across the school and how balanced you are as a rider and how balanced your horse is as you change the diagonal of your trot ride across the centre line.

I found the one thing that helped me during training was to turn each loop at the end of the serpentine in to a full circle (the circle should go over the centre line by three and a third meters). These circles gave me more time to balance my horse before changing rein.

When riding the serpentine in the test you will start it at either A or C. Make sure you do not ride the corner before A or C in the style of the serpentine because this will loose marks if you do.. The same goes for the ending point, it ends at A or C so the turn after that point needs to be ridden in to the corner. Remember to change the trot diagonal you rise on and use half halts to balance the horse as you change rein and go in to the next turn you need to make.

Have fun playing with serpentines and remember the more you ride them the more comfortable you will get with them.
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