Tips from your dressage judge
Having ridden, trained, coached and worked with horses for my whole life, last year in 2019, I thought I would take the next logical step and start the journey of becoming a dressage judge. In the end of last year 2019 I became an EA Nationally Accredited G level judge. This process in itself is a very interesting journey and I have learnt so much from sitting on the other side of the windscreen. I have been lucky enough to shadow and learn from some of Australia's leading A level and FEI level judges as well as participating in workshops with judges who judged the likes of Valegro at the Olympics! I have also had the opportunity to scribe at the Australian National Dressage Championships across all levels both National and International.
From my journey I would love to share some key things that I have learnt;
Breathe! - It is surprisingly noticeable when riders are holding their breath as everything appears tense and tight. Add breathe points/markers into your test. Maybe each time you cross the centre line or go across the diagonal it might be each time you cross X.
Learn the Test. - know you test inside out and back to front. Use whatever method best helps you to learn, pictures, trotting and cantering on foot around your living room, it doesn't matter how you learn it just learn it so it is second nature. This will ensure you don't throw away easy marks with late transitions and inaccurate riding. An extra point here, read the purpose of the test at the top and read the directives on the test for each movement. this will give you a really clear idea of what the judges are judging you on. (you don't need to remember these just get an overview)
Ride to the Markers - Your shoulder should be at the marker for your movements. Not the horses ear, head, rump or tail but your shoulder.
So a little secret.... The C judge can't really see if you are spot on at X.. However they can see if you are straight on the centre line and square in your halts.. The E or B side judge can't really see if you are straight coming up the centre line but by golly they can see if your halt is square and if you are not on X!!!
Preparation- Use your corners and turns to prepare you self and your horse for the next movement. Corners are you best friend in the test. You have just come across the diagonal in trot to M and you have to walk at C use the corner after M and before C to collect the trot a little bit use a half halt and at C walk!
Show your horse off - This is something that can help you pick up some extra marks. On your trot diagonals really get your trot flowing, active and go straight across the diagonal like you own it. Show the judges how lovely your horse can trot across there, ride for the 8's and 9's. The long rein walk is another movement to pick up the extra marks. Really get them to stretch down and walk active and smart! Again take the risk in the long rein walk and ride for the 8's & 9's. The Stretchy trot circle get their nose to stretch forward and down make the trot strong and swinging in the long stretch be brave in these movements.
Scribe/Pencil - This is a great way to learn what the judges are looking for and what the judge can and can not see. Go to your local dressage club and offer to scribe for a day. Don't be afraid if you are a virgin at scribing. Let the organisers know, they will put you with a suitable judge. Most judges love to teach and help people to learn. It is amazing the view and you will be surprised at how much you will learn about test riding and easy marks from the car!
A enter in working trot X halt salute BREATHE!!!
Happy test riding!!
Plum Tack Sponsored Rider
EA Nationally Accredited Dressage Judge