Top Tips to Learn a Dressage Test

Remembering a dressage test, no matter what level you ride at can be pretty daunting, and remembering it when the pressure is on at a competition can be even harder, especially if you are lined up to do more than one test.  One slight mistake can see your marks tumbling. So what can you do to ingrain that test in your memory banks? Here are a few tips from some seasoned dressage riders to help you:

  • Don’t leave learning your test till the morning of the event. Start a week or so previously and take your time.
  • Try and buy the tests with the diagrams on – they help you visualise the patterns and movements of the test  along with the points of the arena much quicker than tests where its only words.
  • Before you even get on your pony, get to the point where you can recite the test out loud from memory- work with a friend who can follow it on paper and correct you if you go wrong.
  • Everyone learns differently – you could write it out on paper, or simply learn the test parrot-fashion by going over and over it out loud. There are also some great apps out there now that are designed to help you learn dressage tests. Find out what works best for you and stick to it!
  • Once you have it in your head, mark out an area on your living-room floor or use an actual dressage arena to “ride” through your test on foot in the actual rhythm of the walk, trot and canter. (This will be entertaining for your friends.) Be sure to include the half halts, changes of bend, etc. If you include these preparations in your learning i.e. Check impulsion, half halt, change the bend, rebalance, change bend again – you will more likely ride it like that in the test
  • Once you feel the test is secure in your head, start riding it on your pony – then practice, practice, practice. Have someone on the ground to check your accuracy, and if you can get a trainer to give you a lesson to give you some pointers that will be really helpful.
  • The night before  the test, have one last look at the test before bed – for some reason, the last thing you read at night is the first thing you remember in the morning – ever noticed that?!
  • On the day – make sure you have a copy of the test in your pocket
  • Watch someone else riding the test and mentally try to stay one step ahead of them so you are pre-empting their next move before they make it. This will give you confidence to realise you do know the test! Beware though- they may get it wrong!
  • While riding your test, if you can think ahead to the next movement while riding the current one. Remember, the goal is to be accurate without sacrificing quality. In other words – it’s important to balance accuracy of the test whilst also remembering key movements like suppleness, impulsion and connection.
  • And, if all else fails and you do forget your way, just head toward the judge at C and she/he will direct you back on course. No one will shoot you!

How do you learn a dressage test? Share your tips!


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