If you have never competed in online dressage before, it may seem overwhelming at first. But it’s really very simple. Follow these Ten Top Tips and you won’t go far wrong. Don’t forget if you are confused at any stage you can always message or email for advice – no question is too silly, it’s almost certainly been asked before!
1. Learn your test!
You are allowed to have a caller, but even so, it really helps to know where you are going and what is coming next. Demi Dressage tests are written to be very child-friendly – so each test flows independently and is usually very symmetrical to make learning it easier. They also ‘layer up’ through the levels in a systematic way, helpful if you want to try two levels/classes.
Even if you are entering one of our two Lead Rein tests, we still want to see the rider starting to try and ride independently – steering etc – so they will need to know where they are going!
2. Ride your corners!
If we had to make a stamp for the most commonly used phrase on a test sheet, it would likely be this! Using your corners properly gives you more time to prepare each movement, so your test will be as good as it can possibly be. If you have to mark out an arena each month to film your test, make sure your arena is the right size and that you have all the letters in the correct place – there is a diagram with exact measurements on our website, note that the ‘corner’ markers are actually 6m in from the point of the arena corner!
3. Pay attention to accuracy!
Following on from corners is accuracy in general – it’s super important at the lower levels as it’s laying a foundation for you to build on, so if you work to get it right from the beginning, you’ll have no problem when it comes to moving up.
Remember all our Demi Dressage tests have ‘themes’, and those will be what the judge is most closely looking at each month – for example in the Smarties Easter Circles tests, we want to see accurate and well-sized circles. If you can try to understand what the purpose of the movement is (circles = suppleness, showing correct bend) then you will be more likely to ride it better, and score higher marks.
4. Wear the right gear!
All tests require the rider to wear a suitable riding hat, boots and gloves. The rider is allowed to carry a whip, but at Demi Dressage we do not allow spurs. The dress code is otherwise informal (though you can wear your show gear if you want to!) but wearing neat tidy clothes will help the judge see your position and so could help boost your collective marks.
Note that at Demi Dressage we have much more relaxed rules for your pony’s tack (including bits, use of martingale and rider safety aids) than most other platforms – see our Rules for full details.
5. ‘Bank’ a test early in the month
It’s never a good idea to leave your filming til the very last day. Film a test run-through early in the month – with luck, you will have time to work on your final submission and film again, but if poorly child/lame pony/English weather/lack of time/uncooperative equipment gets in the way, at least you’ve got something to send in! (And if you don’t used your ‘banked’ video, it’s still useful as you can watch it back to help learn the test, see what you need to improve on, and compare to your final submission later in the month!)
6. Film from behind C!
Tests MUST be filmed from behind the C marker – this is where the judge would normally be positioned as it gives them a good view of your whole test. Make sure when filming that your camera person is perfectly in line with A and C or it can make your centre line appear off and could lose you marks.
7. Film in landscape!
Filming in landscape gives the judge the best view of you in relation to the arena, meaning they can judge your test accurately. Note that tests filmed in portrait incur a -2 mark penalty – so don’t throw away marks by filming wrong!
8. Choose your test wisely!
Dressage tests are a way of getting a ‘snapshot’ view from a judge of how you’re doing and what you can work on to improve. Of course it’s nice to win – but it’s not all about that. If you’re new to dressage, pick a test you feel you can do ‘easily’ so that you don’t need to get nervous about riding it. Once you know what the judge is looking for, you can start to challenge yourself by trying a harder test. (Please be fair to other competitors and don’t enter a test well below your level just so you can win! But by all means contact us if you’ve had a set back and need to drop down a level or two for any reason – there are lots of options available and we want to help you progress with your riding not just in your ability but in your confidence too!)
9. Practise your salute!
Your final halt and salute is your last chance to impress the judge, and in Demi Dressage tests it often has a mark all to itself. Don’t throw away those marks by forgetting to practice halting – it may seem boring, but it’s an easy mark. Break it down into stages – a straight final centre line, riding into a straight and positive halt, immobility, and finally salute. Don’t rush – make sure the pony is completely halted before saluting.
Remember when you salute, reins (and whip, if carried) must go into the hand you *don’t* salute with!
Even if you’re concentrating hard throughout your test, make sure you give the judge a big smile at the end when you salute! They’ll want to know you’ve enjoyed yourself – it’s meant to be fun after all!
If you've got a tip not mentioned here, or something you wish you had known before entering for the first time, why not share it for others below?