DRESSAGE - DON’T PANIC, PRACTICE! Build confidence in your horse

Preparing your horse correctly for a dressage test is essential to build his confidence before his big day.

Dressage novice test set
  • Taking your horse to a dressage test can be nerve racking, both for you and your horse, but if your schooling is not up to scratch, it could be one of the most satisfying. 
  • To ride a half decent dressage test at pre-novice level, you must have established the basics with your horse. This means he must walk, trot and canter in a consistent outline and rhythm and make accurate transitions between all three paces.
  • Even the most well schooled horse can forget these foundations when working in a dressage arena for the first time. Left in the middle of a field with no fences to rely on, he is likely to feel less confident and more crooked. But there are ways to help.
  • Regularly school your horse in the centre of a field so he gets used to the space.
  • Mark out an arena in the middle of the field and teach your horse to work inside the markers.
  • Make the arena a few meters smaller than the usual 60m x 20m manege and put the quarter markers KHM and F slightly closer to the corners than normal. School your horse here and concentrate on riding good corners and accurate transitions at the markers.
  • When you ride your dressage test for real, the arena will seem much larger and you should then have plenty of time to prepare for transitions. 
Learn your dressage test inside out so you can start at any point in the sequence and still run through the rest of the movements. It’s easy to remember the test if things are going smoothly but your mind could go blank if you are distracted by your horse misbehaving. Check by visualising yourself riding the sequence, but don’t get too stressed – Remember even the celebrities can loose their memory in the middle of a test.
Read more dressage tips and advice