Arena Craft

I am a member of British Dressage (BD), our Governing body for dressage here in the UK. On the BD website there are some forums of which some good information is shared.

A thread was started about Arena Craft. The idea was that everyone chipped in with their Top Tips for test riding and so the following ideas are the result of the coming together of the BD Forumites. This is not my article but a super coming together of BD minds!

General Tips:

- Smile and breath and enjoy the ride.
- Practice at home with show jacket, boots etc to make sure you are used to the feeling.
- Keep drinking those fluids, especially in the hotter weather.
- Use the same horse tack (saddle cloth etc) that you would use at the show to make sure all feels comfortable.
- Make the arena a "safe" place to be mentally, breathing issues and tension are reduced so the test flows more.
- Believe that everyone else is there to beat you just as much as you are there to beat them...
- Learn the test thoroughly and go through it at least once at home to flag up any problem moves.
- Learn where the marks for each movement begin and end.
- Then try and learn to relax and flow through the test without over analysing.
- Ride / assess every stride.
- I've found it helpful to plan how I will use the minute or two in the arena before the bell goes.
- Plenty of thought to transitions and work before entering the arena whilst judge is finishing off writing the comments on previous sheet.
- Half halts - lots of them - prepare for everything.
- If something goes wrong then remember to think quickly - thats one lot of marks maybe reduced but you are straight away into another set.

Centre lines:

- Make sure you can ride away from the wall and the horse is not dependant on the fence.
- Encourage the horse to seek both reins and stretch forwards onto the centre line.
- To use little plastic disks of cones to give you a "start gate", say at 'D' and then one at 'X' and at 'G' to help you focus at home of riding straight.
- Find a marker behind the judge, something you can line the judge up with to help know that you are straight.
- Work out which rein you get the best turn from and enter from that direction.
- Ride the horse a bit more forward on the centre line - it will help keep him straighter.
- Marks can be lost by:
a)Making a bad turn at C _ too early, too late, or on inside shoulder,
b)Overshooting at A, makes it impossible to do a straight CL afterwards, as rider tries to get back to CL and wavers all the up.

Corners and Turns:

- Ride the corners correctly - they really set you up for the next movement.
- Before having to circle from a marker, make sure that you have positioned the horse before the marker.
- Ride all movements really accuratly, if its a 10 meter circle, do a 10 meter circle, not 15!!
- Think about your 4 circle points for a 20m circle.

Comments from judges to help:

"uniform bend along line of circle";
"Fluency of transitions";
"relaxation in walk"

Trot work including Medium strides:

- Centre everything - it looks better. Eg, if medium trot strides in a novice test start a few yards onto the diagonal, the transition back to working should be the same distance from the end of the diagonal.
- "Speed is the enemy of impulsion"........keep calm & avoid flying around the arena on the wall of death.
- Riding a bit of shoulder fore through the corner before medium trot across the diagonal helps engage the back end and can encourage more sit.
- Collect the trot as much as possible just before medium and remember to let go of the front end just a tad to allow some stretching through the frame.

Canter work including the give and re-take (G&R):

- "Thinking" shoulder-in on the long side in canter can really help if your horse tends to put his 1/4's in during a test.
- G&R - A few strides before pull elbows back and tuck them in, sit up straight and think forwards!
- For the G&R think body posture, tone, and ride forwards; for the stretch down - tone down body posture, think softer and allow.

Rein back:

- Rein back....if you horse reins back crooked..i.e pushing quarters right, open your right rein contact slightly wider to the norm as part of your aiding.

A final thought.....

- If all else fails, then sing to yourself - "Always look on the bright side of life.."

This list is not by any means conclusive so if there is anything else that can be added please feel free to e-mail Simon.