Frequently Asked Questions
Q11. What is the judge looking for?
The aim of dressage training is to fulfill the athletic ability of that horse, to make him more gymnastic, improve self carriage so ultimately improving the long term soundness of the horse and his willingness and obedience to work.
As well as completing the set movements in a test accurately, the judge will be allocating marks for the horses way of going. The way of going will change as the horses training progresses. The scales of training are used to assess the horses level of training and are as follows:
1. Rhythm - a regular, clear rhythm is the first building block for the following scales. Rhythm must also be correct for the pace - walk must be a clear 4 beat in marching time, trot must be 2 time as the opposite diagonal pairs move with a moment of suspension, canter should be a clear 3 beat with a moment of suspension.
2. Suppleness - to promote long term soundness and freedom the horse must work over his back without resistance in his muscles or against the riders aids. Suppleness is most seen when the rein is released. If the horse has been working correctly over his back he should stretch down and forward when released.
3. Contact - If the horse is working correctly over his back, in a regular rhythm, the contact with the mouth should be light and elastic. Impulsion created by the riders leg is captured in the contact. This proper connection in the hand cannot be created by the hand. If the horse's head is forced down by the contact it gives a very different and resistant picture that results in hollow and flat paces. A connected horse working over his back will have a lightness and energy to his paces created by a willingness to go forward, not a holding back into a forced outline.
4. Impulsion - is a willingness to go forward with energy created in the hindquarters travelling forward over the back and captured in the contact. Impulsion is also linked to rhythm because impulsion does not equal speed but power. When the horse is working with impulsion his rhythm will keep the same tempo whether you are on a straight line, going through a corner or lengthening or shortening strides.
5. Straightness - horses, like people are naturally one sided and will often prefer working more on one rein than the other. In order to improve the quality of all the previous scales the rider must aim to keep the horse as straight as possible during all work. Straightness is achieved when the hindfeet step into the tracks of the front feet both on a straight line and a circle, the rider will have an even feel in both reins. It is only by developing straightness that the impulsion and balance of the horse will be improved.
6. Collection - Collection is where the horse has developed through the previous scales of training so that he is able to carry most of his weight on his hindquarters. Once the horse has reached this stage in his training he is more manoeverable, stronger and more athletic.
The judge will only be expecting to see the early stages of collection at novice level. However in all training of your horse you should be looking to improve the first 5 scales and so your horses way of going.
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